Inside Out


Public and private spheres coalesce in "*my [public] space*," a new exhibition at Netherlands Media Art Institute, in Amsterdam. The group show, including artists Jill Magid, Hasan Elahi and Marisa Olson, builds upon the previous exhibition at the Institute, "Territorial Phantom," which addressed "the occupations of and claims to space by corporations, organizations or countries." This iteration finds artists navigating the increasingly ill-defined boundaries of public and private space, with a particular view onto new opportunities for personal agency and self-definition. In the video Stealing Beauty (2008), for example, artist Guy Ben-Ner and his obliging co-conspirators (wife and two kids) stage a series of guerilla, sitcom-style performances throughout IKEA's interiors. The family acts out a full swathe of domestic events in living spaces built to fit a design department's imagination, and the surreality of this juxtaposition is underscored by a soundtrack of interference -- gaping passersby, store announcements and, occasionally, IKEA security personnel. Ben-Ner's desire to dissolve into coffee-table catalogue normalcy, in other words, is amusingly and poignantly complicated at every turn. Also notable are the Synthetic Performances (2007) of Eva and Franco Mattes (a.k.a 0100101110101101.ORG), which entail the artists' avatars reenacting seminal works of performance art in Second Life. The most successful of these recreated performances emphasize the body, such as Chris Burden's Shoot (1971) and Marina Abramovic and Ulay's Imponderabilia (1977), in which the naked artists lined the sides of a narrow entranceway, forcing visitors into physical contact as they passed. While a certain psychological discomfiture remains, for the Second Life visitor, the elision of the original performance's visceral content can be taken as a broader critique of the diminishing role of our physical bodies in the emergent, predominantly virtual twenty-first century public. - Tyler Coburn

Image Credit: Guy Ben-Ner, Stealing Beauty, 2008