Hilary Harp + Suzie Silver (2004)

Coming of age in the burgeoning eighties art world of “Neo Geo” and record-breaking auction prices, we first encountered the performance art of the sixties and seventies in grainy black and white photographs of an intriguing lost world. These pictures showed frozen glimpses of eccentric actions performed before intimate audiences. Often they were accompanied by reminiscences of cavernous Soho lofts that rented for sixty dollars a month. Happenings and Performance Art – forms dedicated to an ideal of presence – had become representative of an alluring absence. A nostalgic longing arose for those gritty, spontaneous and authentic actions and for a prelapsarian bohemia now gentrified out of existence. We recognized similar yearnings in romantic landscape paintings of an imaginary Arcadian past.

The works in this series conflate a remembrance of a lost bohemia with depictions of a lost Arcadia. At the same time they observe that the original performances, with their primitivist nudity, shamanistic catharsis, and pointed immediacy, may themselves have expressed similar longings. The view-boxes present, on 5.6” LCD displays, video reenactments loosely based on specific historic performances. These scenes, often staged in a studio, are digitally composited into found or artificial landscapes or altered to evoke an enchanted charm. Framed by shadow box landscapes evoking Victorian paper theater sets, these miniature dramas appear distant and hermetically sealed, like a once-living creature now confined in a collector’s archives.

Performers: Travis Anderson, Jody Baker, Elizabeth Byers, Janine Biunno, Christine Cato, Mark D. Cato, Ross Christy, Jacob Ciocci, Vince Gillen, Maggie Haas, Lara Hoke, Tom Kalin, Lily Liu, Beth Marinelli, Mario Marzan, Lauren McEwen, Luke Meeken, Megan Moser, Nina Moser, Shana Moulton, Ryan Murray, Andrew Negrey, Clare Parry, Craig Paull, Drew Pavelchak, Blithe Riley, Benjamin Rod, Abigail Satinsky, Tsvika Solan, Fiona Wilson, Gretchen Winterkorn