by Audra Lambert
Poet Rainer Maria Rilke once observed, “the purpose of life is to be defeated by greater and greater things.” The fragile yet tenacious victory of In Longing, on view now through July 14 at CUE Art Foundation, articulates the spectacular beauty of thwarted connections. Spanning new media, installation, mixed media and sculpture, works on view by artists Alison Chen, SHAWNÉ MICHAELAIN HOLLOWAY, Raymond Pinto, Marie Ségolène and Xirin probe us to reconsider the ways in which we long and the means by which longing manifests. Curated by Anna Cahn, with support from CUE mentor Legacy Russell, In Longing foregrounds the need for a resolution which is implicitly suggested in the concept of “longing.”
Artists on view create intersectional dialogue around privilege, desire and visibility. As noted in Cahn’s catalog essay, “A central question of the exhibition asks: how is desire affected by the oppressive systems of patriarchy and white supremacy?” Participating artists also present performance around the theme of the exhibition. In Longing has been activated over the course of the exhibition by performances from Xirin and Sebastian Chacon and the debut of a performance film from Marie Ségolène. An upcoming performance entitled “what is left, if i am earth” by artist Raymond Pinto and collaborator Fana Fraser will take place on Wednesday, July 14 at 2 PM, followed by a closing reception with the curator the same day from 5 PM.
One consistent aspect of the exhibition is a denial of the male gaze as the default position of longing. Visitors enter the space to immediately encounter Marie Ségolène’s “Rouge Gorge” video and multi-media installation. The multi-sensory elements present within Ségolène’s work centers a self-longing: a passionate wish to situate one’s own sense of longing and desire within an environment alternately fertile and hostile. Loaded with an introspective and inherently queer sense of self-realization, the artist alludes to the fact that yearnings are self-directed, and can be evoked by a range of sensations which are experienced in unique ways by different bodies. “Rouge Gorge” also references visual and audible repetition, a clever yet potent means of referencing sensual ritual and return. Reading from her poetry in a range of scenes – near water, in the midst of the forest, and other natural settings – Ségolène deftly integrates action and expression.
Alison Chen and Xirin provide distinct reflections on how longing can be documented or expressed. Chen’s “In and Out” reveals the relative peaks and valleys of a committed relationship, laying bare the honest analytics of emotion and tracking how that looks in objective terms. Chen’s video, “For One Night Only,” authentically, intimately and sometimes humorously lays bare how living together with a romantic partner can manifest in small gestures and interrelated movements. In Xirin’s video, “Hope Eats the Soul,” the artist and her partner re-enact scenes from Fassbinder’s “Ali: Fear Eats the Soul” (1974) in a lofty measure of how intimacy and distance can collapse into one another. With no dialogue, and scored with atmospheric music, the camera pans alternately between the duo while longing glances connect or concentrate on the middle distance between two certain points, seeking resolution. Xirin’s work traces her “undocumented emotional realms”(1) to evince a longing to be fully seen.
Raymond Pinto’s installation “what is left, if i am earth” presents geodes – crystal aggregates that appear on the outside as spherical rocks. This deceptive appearance challenges us to consider how much of what we know is taken for granted. Pinto presents a “Black queer ecology of motion”(2): asking where, and how, restraint and impulse intersect and what the implications of these actions are. The installation seemingly vacillates between presence and absence, embedded with investigations about emotion and longing and about the space allocated for Black queer experiences. Environments and power dynamics infuse SHAWNÉ MICHAELAIN HOLLOWAY’s prescient sculpture “REQUEST–>LURE–>RESPONSE–>REWARD(?) OR A COVERING FOR THE CAGE.” The artist explores a theme she calls “choreographic viewership”(3) in dialogue with BDSM desire while simultaneously questioning which bodies are included or “longed” for.
Visitors to the exhibition can view the interior of the space where Xirin, Chen, HOLLOWAY and Pinto’s works are situated from a tête-à-tête chair rounded chair able to seat two guests alongside one another, which is part of Xirin’s installation for “Hope Eats the Soul”. A letter written by the artist floats alongside one of two mixed media works Xirin presents in the space, incorporating allusions to the corporeal: scenes from the artist’s past performances are depicted in acrylic, lipstick, egg and coffee applied across canvas, accentuating the flattened presence of the artist’s two-channel video nearby. In tracing the interaction of Chen and Xirin’s video and installation work with Raymond Pinto’s “what is left, if i am earth” and HOLLOWAY’s “REQUEST–>LURE–>RESPONSE–>REWARD(?) OR A COVERING FOR THE CAGE”, a curatorial vision emerges which intertwines attraction and distance, distraction and intimacy. Binaries fold into themselves, merging instead into interrogations that push us to question how we never realized we were this close to begin with, and why it’s impossible to be closer than we even knew we were. -AL
(1) See Anna Cahn’s catalog essay, “In Longing.” (2) and (3): Ibid.