In the beginning of The Miracle of the Rose, Jean Genet writes, "A man must dream a long time in order to act with grandeur, and dreaming is nursed in darkness."
The artists in "Coming After" grew up in the shadow of the Culture Wars, where "queer" became a term of empowerment for a new batch of young artists who were seeking to find their voice. In this era, organizations such as ACT UP took aim at anti-AIDS and anti-gay policies and politicians, which resulted in a new dynamic in the art world, inspiring the new generation to seek out what came before them. In the press release, the artist Sharon Hayes says, "It wasn't my friends who were dying, it was the people I was just discovering, people I was just beginning to model myself after, people I longed to become."
Within this context, we see each work as being imbued with a sense of loss. This takes place explicitly in "Your Shadow Is Reading Funeral Rites [Room of Light for Funeral Rites]," an installation which features a quote from The Miracle of the Rose by our friend, Jean Genet. In this makeshift prison, the viewer temporarily inhabits Genet's mournful, erotic story of love and punishment.
(c) Susanne M. Winterling, (Your Shadow Is Reading Funeral Rites [Room of Light for Funeral Rites]), 2009. Courtesy the artist and Luttgenmeijer, Berlin.
In the exhibition, we also see two 16mm films by Pauline Boudry and Renate Lorenz titled, "No Future/No Past" (which is an incredibly depressing Cloud Nothings song, by the way.) The performers are Ginger Brooks Takahashi, Fruity Frankie, G.rizo, Olivia Anna Livki, and Werner Hirsch, and they present a diverse view of queer identity in this aged, almost kitschy medium.
Lastly, we have "Glen from Colorado," a work by Glen Fogel, who was born in Denver but lives and works in Brooklyn. A few years ago he directed the video for Antony and the Johnsons' beautiful, elegiac hymn, "Hope There's Someone." In this installation, fluorescent lights spell out the artist's first name, creating a deadened, ghostly glow in the room. In one corner, there's a powder coated steel chair and in the other, there's an mp3 player with a motion detector. It's an unsettling scene (the overwhelming whiteness of the room, lights, and chair) but also oddly triumphant: the artist will be seen. If, as the posters once proclaimed, Silence = Death, then it is reassuring that this exhibition is loud and clear.
(c) Glen Fogel, "Glen from Colorado," 2009. Courtesy the artist and Callicoon Fine Arts, New York.
See "Coming After" at The Power Plant (Toronto) from now until 4 March, 2012.