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I Am Another:
The exhibition “Out of Body” in the Lobby Gallery at Deutsche Bank New York

With nine positions from more than three decades, Out of Body investigates the interplay between performance, portrait, and artistic self-representation. Oliver Koerner von Gustorf had a look at the exhibition in the Lobby Gallery at Deutsche Bank New York.

Tim Sullivan, At the Ocean Floor, 2005
Deutsche Bank Collection

Tim Sullivan looks like the young David Hockney. With his peroxide-blonde hairstyle and round horn-rimmed glasses, he is lying suspended above the floor as though he’d been arrested in the middle of a free fall. The image that immediately comes to mind is the 1960 photo-montage Leap into the Void depicting the French artist Yves Klein falling from a high wall onto the Parisian pavement – and right into the adventure of an art action that was also to usher in the movements of the 1960s: Pop-Art, Fluxus, Zero, Conceptual Art, Body Art, and Performance Art. In the case of the 1974-born American artist, however, things seem considerably less perilous. Sullivan’s leap into the void doesn’t end on hard concrete, but rather in the living room of his predecessors, above a soft, cuddly shag rug in hip retro-style. Against a wallpaper pattern in psychedelic Rococo, the figure seems to hover in a state of suspension between art and fashion. Sullivan’s piece, titled At the Ocean Floor (2005), was one of the works that attracted the most attention at the 2006 California Biennial , at which the Orange County Museum presented a résumé of the current West Coast scene. Sullivan, who lives in San Francisco, repeatedly quotes icons like Andy Warhol and Chris Burden – artists from the ’60s and ’70s whom he reveres. It seems fitting that his seemingly paranormal excursion into art history is actually an ironic gesture that speaks of the impossibility of being truly radical on the contemporary scene.

Alexandre Orion, Metabiotics 8, 2003
Courtesy of the Artist and Foley Gallery, New York

Out of Body is the title of an exhibition at the Lobby Gallery of Deutsche Bank New York that investigates the role of the body in contemporary art and explores current possibilities of self-representation. In addition to Tim Sullivan, Liz Christensen, curator of the New York Deutsche Bank Collection, has brought together eight additional international artists in the show; although they represent very different positions and generations from the past decades, their works are all characterized by a combination of performance aspects with photography. The exhibition title is programmatic; breaking out of the physical limitations of perception, the move from corporeality to transcendence, the shift from action to contemplation are essential to each of the works represented here.

Ana Mendieta, Silueta Work in Iowa 10, 1976-78,
Courtesy of Gallery Lelong, New York

An important position is this context comes from the legacy of one of the legends of the New York art scene: the photo series Silueta Works by the Cuban-born Ana Mendieta, who died in 1985 after falling 34 floors from her New York apartment eight months after marrying the Minimal artist Carl Andre. Her photographs were made between 1976 and 1978 during an artist’s residency in Iowa. In contrast with Sullivan’s distanced statement, these works are virtually imbued with a poetic earnestness. Mendieta carved the contours of her body into the ground or drew them like a transient, enigmatic track that she then filled with a variety of materials: flowers, dried branches, mud, gunpowder, ashes.

Ana Mendieta, Silueta Work in Iowa 11, 1976-78,
Courtesy of Gallery Lelong, New York

The ghostly silhouettes seem to burn themselves into the landscape, merging light with shadow. Over the course of time, a very particular typology arose: figures with arms raised above the head, symbolizing the connection between heaven and earth, land and water, body and soul. Mendieta’s works combine her interest in Afro-Cuban rituals and the pantheistic Santeria religion with the aesthetic practices of the 1970s, including Earth, Land, and Body Art as well as Performance. At the same time, the American immigrant’s approach to nature was connected to reclaiming her cultural identity, whose roots were in her home country of Cuba.

Zhang Huan, from the series Foam , 1998
Courtesy of Max Protetch Gallery, New York

On the other hand, the ghosts of ancestors seem to literally speak from the works of Zhang Huan. In his 10-part photo series Foam (1998), the New York-based Chinese art star portrays his foam-covered face, which recalls the face of a newborn. On each of the large-scale images, photographs of his family members can be seen glittering out of his wide-open mouth – a voice that speaks both inwardly and outwardly, in the place of ancestors and progeny. Foam is an oral history loaded with bodily and mythological symbolism that conveys an experience of belonging and passed-down family traditions as being essential for art and life. The expressiveness in the way Zhang addresses his family history gives the viewer the feeling that the artist is revealing something very intimate and personal.

Gillian Wearing, Self Portrait as my father, Bruce Wearing, 2003
Deutsche Bank Collection

And it’s exactly this impression of authenticity that Gillian Wearing radically puts to the test in her photographic work Self-Portrait as My Father, Bruce Wearing (2003). At first glance, there doesn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary about the man in Wearing’s portrait; he seems young, but of indeterminate age, a "lad" of the British working class wearing his best, albeit somewhat outdated suit. Wearing’s father doesn’t feel well enough in his jacket and bowtie to look truly elegant. But if the viewer feels vaguely uneasy looking at his waxy complexion, then there’s a reason. Because what we see is not at all what is presented to us in reality. I am another: the person in the picture is actually Wearing herself. With the help of latex, facial prostheses, and artificial hair, the artist created an original portrait of her father in painstaking detail. The ease with which the British artist slips into the skin of others can be seen in other photo works made around the same time as part of her Album Series, for which she posed dressed as her brother, her sister, her uncle, and her mother. When you consider that we’re looking at artificial skin created by professional make-up artists, it becomes clear just how invented this "family resemblance" actually is. For the British artist, the body is a projection surface for both her own and collective memories and yearnings – a social construct that can be manipulated, and that is no more "natural" than the family bond itself.

Nikki S. Lee, from the series Parts, 2002
Courtesy of the Artist and Leslie Tonkonow Gallery, New York

The Korean artist Nikki S. Lee, who lives in the USA, could also be termed a kind of "agent" who slips into alien skins. For her photo series, such as The Hispanic Project, The Hip-Hop Project, and The Skateboard Project, she observed various ethnic and sub-cultural groups over a period of time and adopted their style of clothing, their body language, and their posture down to the very last detail.

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