“Back to the Door”
BECKY KOLSRUD, KALUP LINZY,
November 16, 2013–January 18, 2014
Opening: Friday, November 15, 8pm
Based on the telenovela, Back to the Door takes its title from a common soap opera trope—where a character is speaking ill of another, and the subject of their derision is standing in the door behind them. Unlike its counterpart, the soap opera, the telenovela is a fictional serial with a predetermined duration, depicting both the development and conclusion of a central plotline. Subjects range from romance to comedy, the supernatural to the erotic, to murder mysteries, all with a heavy integration of melodrama. Originating in Latin America in the 1950s, the telenovela has played a role in the construction of nationhood and collective identity, acting as a platform for individuals from varying backgrounds to engage with social and political issues while generating a shared public space and vernacular across geographic, class, and social divides.
The works in Back to the Door reference the complexities of melodrama, camp, and stereotypical portrayals of gender, weaving together issues of class and identity with emotional rigour and self-reflexivity. For her portraits of anonymous women, Los Angeles-based Becky Kolsrud draws from her collection of found photographs of sorority girls, school portraits, and glamour shots. Her subjects range from historical re-enactors to stand-up comedians and athletes, and Kolsrud creates awkwardness through composite poses and unusual settings. The works emphasize the body language, clothing, and gaze of her source material, extending these representations of women beyond the decades from which they originate.
In his telephone-conversation-based soap opera, Conversations Wit de Churen (2002–present), Kalup Linzy (New York) constructs an irreverent narrative of sex, family, and violence, performed by the artist and a cast of friends, routinely dressed in drag. Inspired by the soap operas of his youth, Linzy replaces the predominantly Caucasian, upper class, and heterosexual characters with individuals representative of his own upbringing in the rural American South, employing a lo-fi aesthetic and regional dialect to create an ironic and humourous complication of race, class, and gender. Presented in the exhibition is the third installment of the series, Da Young and Da Mess (2005), in which the lead character is consulting a telephone psychic about a marriage proposal.
For Cotton Candy Insulation Keeps You Warm and Cuts Like Glass (2013), Elizabeth Milton (Vancouver) will work with a procession of participants—including soap opera fanatics, drag queens, and magicians—to destroy prop-glass (traditionally made with sugar in the theatre and movie industry) in a series of private performances. Toying with gestures and actions pulled from various performance referents (including Hollywood film, musicals, opera, and punk rock), the performances will take place after hours in the closed gallery, with the accumulated residue of the events altering the installation. The work will culminate in a video presented the last week of the show. As a critical examination of gender roles and the boundaries between comedy, tragedy, and emotional authenticity, Milton aims to articulate the cultural lust for spectacular “breakdown” and the commodification of psychic rupture.