Co-Prosperity Sphere – Sex, Power & Labor

Joel Kuennen

Not even a blip is left on their website, but this past September 11th, Co-prosperity Sphere, the unofficial arts center of Chicago’s Bridgeport neighborhood held their Sex, Power & Labor show. A one-night event of performance and mostly single-channel video installations with some other sculptural and painting work that was pretty remarkable, this Saturday opening “intentionally and ironically fell on September 11th.” This show was “devised as an interdisciplinary conversation addressing systematic institutional oppressions of ‘other’” according to curators Oli Rodriguez and Shirin Mozaffari.

Single-channel work is traditionally set in a gallery with a projector and a pair of headphones. The point of this, I don’t know. The extra step a gallery patron must take in order to address the piece as a whole is often not made leaving the only trace of the piece limited to a visual one. Perhaps their functionality would be helped when hosted online so that they could be accessed in their entirety. The gallery-goer’s attention has changed and must now be won at every turn by the artist. Does this make the gallery obsolete? No, far from it. But it does alter the way in which an artist must operate. For the artist to rely on any impetus from the gallery-goer to access the work is a fool’s game. The artist must assert their work, prove that it belongs in a space and is not just taking up space, quietly, without pretension. Ignoring the commercial nature of the artworld results in ineffectual work when the space being used is fundamentally commercial (i.e.: a traditional gallery setting that supports compartmentalization).

That said, one piece that has already made its way around the Chicago gallery circuit to an extent did just that. Casilda Sanchez’s piece “as inside as the eye can see,” is a silent single-channel close-up video of two eyes, flirtatiously butting eyelashes. Projected onto the largest free wall of the gallery, Sanchez’s piece asserts its presence in the gallery with spectacular results. The tendrils of interior worlds touch points.

Elise Goldstein’s piece, a chronicle of frustration and release, is a series of cotton rag-paper sheets, hung in serial gallery style. Anecdotes imparting the artist’s sexual frustration are calligraphed on the upper portions, punctuated by long blue spurts that trail down the rest of the sheets consisting of female ejaculate. This piece began a trend for the evening where my perception was concerned.

Ryan Dunn’s performance that consisted of him humping, breaking, fixing and continuing to hump a circuit-bent reel-to-reel was followed up by Marissa Perel’s equally orgiastic performance. Ms. Perel, dressed in neon tie-dye nylons and a hyper-tribal outfit laid out a blanket, set down a rotisserie chicken from Jewell-Osco, a strap-on dildo without the harness and a bottle of glitter. Suffice it to say, the performance ended up with her fucking a beglittered chicken.

This profusion of sexual energies is an appropriate reaction to 9/11 in a very base sense. An orgy of death and destruction is easily seen as a release. The acts on 9/11 certainly acted as a release for many of the world’s inhabitants, especially those that have been on the resource-end of the global economy. The explosive catharsis contained in this event manifested in the controlled ejaculation of ammunition, arms, soldiers, etc. Many of the artists’ responses to this event represented at this show relied on a Bataille-like fascination with the build-up and release of fantastic energies. As Bataille said in Blue Noon,

This eye which, to contemplate the sun, face to face in its nudity, opens up to it all its glory, does not arise from my reason: it is a cry which escapes me. For at the moment when the lightening stroke blinds me, I am the flash of a broken life, and this life–anguish and vertigo–opening itself up to an infinite void, is ruptured and spends itself all at once in this void.

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