The Foundation (2015) is a film installation by Patrick Staff, co-commissioned with Chisenhale Gallery, London; Spike Island, Bristol; Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane; and Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver.
The work explores queer intergenerational relationships negotiated through historical materials. The film combines footage shot at the Tom of Finland Foundation in Los Angeles – home to the archive of the erotic artist and gay icon and a community of people that care for it – with choreographic sequences shot within a specially constructed set.
The legacy of Finnish artist Touko Laaksonen (1920-1991), better known as Tom of Finland, spans multiple generations; his work made a considerable impact on masculine representation and imagery in post-war gay culture. The foundation was established in 1984 by Tom and his friend Durk Dehner to preserve his vast catalogue of homoerotic art, whilst endeavouring to – to quote the organization’s website – ‘educate the public to the cultural merits of erotic art and in promoting healthier, more tolerant attitudes about sexuality.’ Today, Durk runs the organization and lives in the house, along with a handful of other employees and artists.
Rather than focusing on Tom of Finland’s work, Staff’s film evokes the foundation as a set of relations. They explore how a collection is formed and constituted; the communities that produce and are produced by a body of work; and ideas of intergenerational relationships and care. Through observational footage of the house, its collections and inhabitants, the foundation is revealed as a domestic environment, a libidinal space, archive, office and community centre; a private space which is also the home of a public-facing organization and the source of a widely dispersed body of images.
Staff foregrounds their own identity and their personal dialogue with the different communities of the foundation to consider how ideas of intergenerational inheritance and exchange are complicated by gender identity and presentation. The documentary footage of the foundation is intercut with a series of scenes, which are shot in a set incorporating aspects of the building’s architecture and technologies and operate within the register of experimental theatre. In these sequences, featuring their interactions with an older actor, Staff uses choreography and props to explore the body as a site for the construction and deconstruction of subjectivities.
Patrick Staff is an artist based in London, UK and Los Angeles, USA. Staff received their BA in Fine Art and Contemporary Critical Studies from Goldsmiths University of London in 2009. Staff’s work has been exhibited at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles; New Museum, New York; Walker Arts Center, Minneapolis; and the Tate Modern, amongst other venues. They completed the LUX Associate Artists Programme in 2011 and received the Paul Hamlyn Award for Visual Artists, 2015.
Mirror, Stage, Baby IntrospectiveLuma Westbau is pleased to announce the first institutional solo exhibition by Victoria Colmegna curated by Fredi Fischli and Niels Olsen at schwarzescafé. Mirror, Stage, Baby Introspective shows a kaleidoscopic presentation of artworks and remnants of exhibitions made between 2013 and 2019. In her work, Colmegna engages with the body language and dynamics that dominate closed systems. This exhibition self-critically reflects the making of the young artist’s oeuvre as a self-abusive practice within her immediate social context.
‘Simple pop structures sustain her image, allowing her real self to remain a mystery – is she really that sexy?’ Kim Gordon
The Super-Personal and the Feminist (Wing of the Russian Revolution)
So there are many paths to follow in Mirror, Stage, Baby Introspective but no actual solo show. The show is over-curated, populous, somewhat apocryphal, under-acknowledged. It’s trans-personal; as in things done by many. By mixing, committing, hosting, inviting, ordering, demanding, asking and begging different things from different people, VC found the cipher for self-hood’s unresolved dilemma: trans-personal agency. Just look at the show: at the peak of networking, exchanging, and including others, everything is kindred. Everything has something, difficult to define, in connection. The problem of receiving trans-personal agency is that we do things with other people all the time, new ideas, things we couldn’t even mention without causing surprise, tenderness or exaltation, but we don’t have the tools to think about them properly. We have only the clichés of the old organizations and the aftertaste of corruption. But to write something for another person to use is to simulate being another person, thus supporting her and building energy. It’s like raising the neighbor’s kid and not even knowing what kind of relationship you’re cultivating. Ghostwriters are the aunts of the world: trans-personal heroes who channel and formalize other people’s feelings. Can a show be devised by thinking like that, by projecting oneself that much onto others? Can organizations emerge by thinking like that?
The question of trans-personal agency (or super-personal entities) isn’t the newest item in the agenda of radical intelligence. ‘We must bear in mind,’ wrote Anatoly Lunacharsky almost a hundred years ago, ‘that the struggle is for an ideal: the victory over individualism and of communal life based on a natural merging of personalities into super-personal entities.’ The new entities Lunacharsky was thinking about were not the old fraternities conceived to share power, nor the exhausting binge-networking of the young, ambitious future despots but real kinds of association like marriage, friendship, a party, or just the preference for a particular author: structures that the subject can have confidence in; bonding is a substitute for frenemy.
At the time of the Russian Revolution, some of these ideas were shared by the feminist wing of the Bolshevik party. In 1919, Alexandra Kollontai and Inessa Armand founded the Zhenotdel, the Department for Women Issues of the Revolutionary State. It was a completely new institution, the size of a ministry, devoted to improving the conditions of women’s lives and promoting their rights. And it also involved experimental inquiry into what all aspects of a woman’s life would be like after the Revolution: marriage, motherhood, sisterhood, friendship. What could these words mean in the future? This was the starting point. So should VC look forward, leap-frog the solo show and establish a new Zhenotdel? And what would it be like? A party? A school? A spa? –
Extract from the press release for Victoria Colmegna’s exhibition Broken Ego, Park View, Los Angeles, 2017. Written by Claudio Iglesias.
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