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Watch out for the Identity

Projecting Identity, Anderson Gallery Drake University

November 9 - December 14, 2012

Left: Marina Abramovic/Uly’s “Rest Energy” Right: ManYee Lam’s “Cocooning”

Review by Rachel

November 28, 2012

When I went to visit the Projecting Identity show at the Anderson, I was alone. Had the whole joint to myself and my leisure. It was a Sunday afternoon and I walked straight to the back, passing a handful of makeshift viewing rooms for each of the videos in the group show. The video behind the last curtain was titled Microcosm and was not looping. I found the remote, pushed play and watched from beginning to end.

The imagery was overwhelming. It was life, death, very big things and the very small. Digital bodies were morphing in and out, back and forth from flesh to bone. The music was some sorta dramatic film score set to a metronome of frantic typing.  From the point of view of God, you’re looking down on revolving chaos. A digital landscape collaged of scenes from the virtual role playing game, Second Life. It was like trying to see everything at once. 

Gary Hill’s “Wall Piece”

I left Microcosm and was engulfed by the stillness of Marina Abramovic/Uly’s Rest Energy. At first, I saw no movement. A man and woman were leaning away from each other, steadied by a bow and arrow. You can hear them breathing. Abramovic’s lover is aiming an arrow at her heart. The action breaks when they start to slowly release the tension being pulled on the bow and arrow. Then the video loops and again they fall back into position.

I moved slowly through each viewing station. You are either faced with a body or a collection of bodies. Behaviors include talking about cultural expectations, throwing oneself against a wall, primping in a public bathroom and trying really hard to make yourself vanish.  The intention is to consider identity. Question who you are you and what makes you that way. After being assaulted by a strobe light in the Gary Hill video, I laid on a pile of pillows in the ManYee Lam video installation.

Nate Young’s “Untouched”

It’s a cave in the middle of the show. Two videos are playing at once. Cocooning repeats faster than the Self-Combing Woman narrative. I recommend laying down on the pillows for awhile. Read the subtitles describing the lives and decisions these old Chinese ladies faced being “spinsters” in the “old world”.  It was the highlight of the show for me. You watch Lam build a cocoon around herself just like a silk worm would. The old ladies talk about how their choices set them free from the norm but still locked them in another restricting way of life. It made me think that we have to become specific eventually. Our specifics make up our identity.

Drake students and Lenore Metrick-Chen curated this show. They also wrote responses to the videos chosen which are provided to you in an excellent publication designed with invisible pages. I appreciated their insight after seeing the show. Projecting Identity closes Decemeber 14th. May you have your own dedicated Sunday afternoon at the Anderson before then.