A zaftig pink-haired tourist shakes her rear end for passers-by. A blindfolded woman hikes up her voluminous skirt and begins to shave herself. A clay housewife absent-mindedly drops her baby. Again.
Some of the biggest names in contemporary performance and video art celebrate women acting up and acting out in Looking Is Better Than Feeling You, a program of 16 short works selected by New York-based curator Astria Suparak.
Whether they’re washing dishes while wearing a revealing bikini, as in Kirsten Stoltmann’s Self-Reflecting, or enacting sitcom-inspired scenarios with a gorilla, as in Jacqueline Goss’ Slapstickers or Digit + Dian, the women command our attention.
Intercut among the visual pieces are Miranda July’s audio excerpts from a series titled The Drifters, which originally played in the elevator of New York’s Whitney Museum. These eerie voice-overs about parenting and other anxieties reverberate on the soundtrack while the screen remains black.
Suparak wants viewers to work for their entertainment. ‘I like making people sit down and use just one sense, either just their eyes or just their ears.’
Culled from hundreds of films and videos, Looking is Better Than Feeling You was inspired by Suparak’s everyday experiences. ‘I’ve been interested in this idea of looking, of the pleasures and intimidating powers of the gaze. I live in New York and can’t even get my mail without confronting a hundred random people on the subway and in the streets. I can’t go anywhere without feeling hugely self-conscious about how I look, sharpened by the verbal aggression and unveiled intent of strangers in the city.
‘But,’ she admits, ‘I also partake in this power, this brazen lack of coquettish suburban etiquette.’
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