From Charles de Gaulle airport to JFK is eight hours, but the time change and constant daylight make it seem longer. On our last night in Paris we went to dinner, a very boring party, and then bought drugs and went to a club called Boy or Toy. From there we took a taxi to the airport, finishing the drugs on the way; Amelie tucked the gun she bought at the club into the cab’s upholstery to avoid problems checking in.
On the plane I sat between Lars von Trier and Philip Seymour Hoffman, who were both sucking morphine lollipops. Arne Glimcher and Robert Downey, Jr. were seated behind us and alternately kicked the back of our seats and discussed James Franco’s new show very loudly. We were told we couldn’t smoke, even though we were seated in First Class, so I went to the toilet with Uma where we did a couple of quick lines and then shared a cigarette after she disabled the smoke detector with a tampon. Back in my seat someone offered me a Rohypnol, and I swallowed it dry and spent the rest of the trip home staring at the cloudless sky.
We live in the age of Meta. Meta-Criticism, Meta-Literature, Meta-Art. Aesthetics in the digital age made us first question the structure and order of things, the nature and shape of reality, then allowed us to gently move into territory more fluid and amorphous. Reality, as we see it digitally, on television shows, or in the news, is a porous thing. Our lives and stories intertwine with others, creating an interesting moment in history where we share information more fluidly, though with less certainty as to what is "real." Aneta Grzeszykowska, a Polish photographer, is making her U.S. debut at Harris Lieberman in an exhibition entitled Lovetime, an homage to the feminist precursors she admires and emulates. In 2007 she debuted a series of color photographs based on Cindy Sherman’s black and white Untitled Film Stills, carefully replacing Sherman with her own image, like an eager understudy vying for a choice role. Like Sherrie Levine, one could question whether this was a strategy of displacing the inherent aesthetic value of the "original" in the age of "the mechanical" or a coy ploy to shill inexpensive versions of the originals at lower prices while retaining a patina of artistic integrity.
We needn’t have worried. Grzeszykowska, whose works are included in The New Museum’s Ostalgia show, lays bare her real feelings (though don’t tell her that) by placing images of herself collaged onto archetypal shots of her artistic heroes. Feminist performance/photographer/installation artists like Ana Mendieta, Birgit Jürgensen, Francesca Woodman, Hannah Wilke, Helen Chadwick, and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha used their work to comment on issues of identity, violence, and feminism in the male-centric art world of the Seventies. Here, they share a Meta-Space with a nude, pregnant Grzeszykowska, who cuddles up to them, becoming both protective mother and needy child in the collages. The fact that the six artists Grzeszykowska chose came to unfortunate and untimely ends lends a surreal, slightly melancholic air to the book that these pieces comprise. Lovebook (2010) is displayed open on the wall, allowing the pieces to form an open narrative -- we are left to our own devices to decide if she is avenging angel or the issue of such a rich history of feminist art.
Clock (2011) is a 12-hour video that is comprised of stills of Grzeszykowska performing a choreography of dance combinations, which are synched with the hours of the day. The image of the artist is multiplied to correspond to the changing hours, with replicate Grzeszykowskas multiplying with the minutes. Of the works presented, Lovebook is stronger, if only because the narrative implied is so nuanced. This is not a new strategy, the mixing of fictional realities with an artist’s narrative. Bret Easton Ellis, in a moment of pique at his friend and colleague Jay McInerney, had Patrick Bateman roof and rape Alison Poole (one of McInerney’s characters from his novel Story of My Life) in American Psycho. Mallarmé dedicated “Prose” (1897) to a person named Des Esseintes. Des Esseintes was a character from Huysmans’s Against Nature. “Prose,” by the way, was a poem.
It is a turvey-topsy world we live in. We have to be very, very, careful. Sometimes all the information is always already there, seemingly at face value, like the hands of the clock. Until it isn’t anymore. - Bradley Rubenstein
The Harris Lieberman Gallery is at 508 West 26th St. in New York City.
Mr. Rubenstein is a painter, story teller, and smart culture aficionado.