THE POLITICAL SEDUCER’S DIARY
A performance art event on Instagram – @HoustonPerformanceArt
Curated by Jeanette Joy Harris
November 4th, 2017 – December 29th, 2017
Words from the Curator
From 4 November to 29 December 2017, “The Political Seducer’s Diary,” an Instagram-based project in collaboration with Performance Art Houston, ran @PerformanceArtHouston. Eight artists from around the world took residence on the Instagram account and found ways in which to merge performance art, documentation and social media in order to discuss how seduction and aesthetics converge to influence decisions we make in public life. Artists looked at issues like gun control, sexual assault, consumerism, and environmentalism.
The project is based on two concepts: a re-framing of the term ‘political’ and Soren Kierkegaard’s critique of an aesthetic-based ethic.
First, if the word ‘political’ has its basis in the Greek term polis, the Greek city-state whose home is in shared public space, then what is political is far broader than presidential rhetoric, legislative incompetence and Capitol Hill gossip. The political is what concerns us all – the issues we grapple with as communities. Some of these issues include: how the public health crisis affects local hospitals; how mental illness is dealt with through our criminal justice system; how the gender/race pay gap affects ways in which families can support their children; how ever-growing personal debt and the death of Social Security is silently creating a generation of people who will work until they die; and how loosening attitudes toward climate change and the environment not only destroy our landscapes but indicate a level of greed that surpasses any prior generation. In this project I hope to, through a re-framing of the term ‘political,’ remind us that despite collective pessimism, we must continue to think in terms of communities – on behalf of those around us and in a public transparent way – where the interests of others are clearly represented. We must remember what the term ‘political’ really means.
The second concept is rooted in Soren Kierkegaard’s 19th century text, The Seducer’s Diary, which describes and critiques an “aesthetic life.” The text articulates a worldview where appearance, over-intellectualization, emotional ambiguity, mood and manipulation provide the basis for decision-making and enjoyment. The aesthetic eschews reason, research, and collective dialogue in favor of personal reflection, interest and entertainment. While The Seducer’s Diary’s narrative centers around romantic acquisition, we can extrapolate from the text how aesthetics is a contributing factor to political life. Aesthetics seduce us. Appearances blind us. Beautiful words confuse us. Choreographed experiences cause us to lose sight of a larger, diverse world. Notions of the aesthetic can and do over-turn our capacity for reason – what we must utilize if we are to make just political decisions. Kierkegaard’s critique of a 19th century ethics of aesthetics is just as relevant today as we grope for reason in a sensationalized, relativistic (‘fake news’) world.
FEATURING WORK BY (click name for highlights of show):
Daniel Caballero is a multidisciplinary artist from Los Angeles whose practice examines interpersonal relations and cultural doctrines. Caballero forensically investigates these structures to implement transparency and expand the scope of intimacy. Through performance, Caballero engages the body and its absence as a site of confrontation and provocation, where access is privileged and acute vulnerability is facilitated. Cross generational inheritances of ritual, ceremony, and offerings are restructured from the oppressive residue of postcolonial Mexico and Philippines. Caballero’s excavation of image and text formulate a decryption, making the viewer not only complicit, but non-singular, and non-passive.
Vincent Campos is a French visual artist with a Masters in Fine Art from the Dijon Art School. His practice includes performance, installation, ceramics and sound. He focuses on a materials potentiality, absurdity and repercussion and likes to create connections and interactions with spectators. He began studying violin at 13 and has used his playing to create urban experiences where landscapes, differences in scale, the body, and negative space all work together. He also likes telling stories, illustrating, serigraphy, and etching. He has performed for festivals in France, the Netherlands, Norway, Germany, and Italy.
Brief: Game based environment – a sweet lure – where repetitive videos structurally choreograph, control and manipulate people’s experiences.
Brooke Leigh is an Australian artist and a Master of Fine Arts candidate at Sydney College of the Arts (USYD). By investigating repressed memories and anxiety through processes of drawing, Leigh’s work explores ways in which the performative act or event can become a cathartic experience. Working at liminal states of the body, she explores the performative gesture through writing, drawing, print-making, live performance, video and audio installation. Leigh has exhibited and performed in Australia, Belgium, Lithuania, Italy, Spain, and the UK.
Brief: address the anxiety-state and pose questions to the public to provoke thought
Doc Smartz was born in the cold and windy wilds of Canada, in the hometown of Wayne Gretzky, and began his journey with a trip to Australia when he was 20. There he met a group of traveling evangelists and joined a breakaway group in the jungles of Fiji. Stints in Switzerland and a (very) small town outside of Calgary, Alberta followed where he worked as a landscaper, cement man, youth employment and tourism coordinator, Teaching Assistant and editor of a paper. Moving to Edinburgh to pursue his graduate education, Doc Smartz completed his PhD in 2012. His research focused on 18th and 19th century German and Danish philosophy (Hamann, Kant, Kierkegaard, and others) looking specifically at questions around freedom, reason and language. He remains committed to academic pursuits, teaching Existentialism at Edinburgh University, organizing public philosophy groups and generally attempting to corrupt the minds of the youths.
Katya Petetskaya is a visual artist who works predominantly in painting and visual art performance. Born and raised in Russia she now lives and works in Australia while frequently undertaking projects in other parts of the world. Rather than focusing on finding her roots, she explores the ambiguous state of belonging. Petetskaya’s paintings combine the language and materials of landscape painting, while disrupting traditional readings of this genre. Usually created in digital plein air using bright colour palettes, the paintings are hybrid versions of landscape and abstraction, with no reference to any particular location or time. In her performance practice, Petetskaya explores alternative forms of knowledge that go beyond thought, in at attempt to understand the co-relation between body and reality. Petetskaya has a Master of Art with a concentration in painting from UNSW Art and Design, Sydney. She held her first solo exhibition at Airspace Projects in Sydney in 2016 and has been part of collaborations and group shows in Sydney, Venice, Athens, The Hague, Saas Fee, St Petersburg and Leipzig.
Brief: In her work, “Much Love,” Katya will be exploring economic forms of seduction. Financial seduction is of particular interest to her – how and why we are being seduced into spending that which we cannot afford. Being seduced is being sold to someone or something for a promise of one’s dream. For seduction to continue, the dream can never come true unless it is being continuously replaced with a more powerful fantasy.
Ryder Richards is a Dallas-based artist who was a fellow at Roswell Artist-in-Residence from September 2012 until August 2013, held the art department chair at Eastfield College in Mesquite, TX, and is now an independent artist. Richards is a co-founder of the RJP NOMADIC GALLERY (a traveling art gallery), CULTURE LABORATORY (internet based collective exhibiting internationally) and Dallas-based group THE ART FOUNDATION. He has curated and exhibited in numerous exhibitions (including an exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art) and is the recipient of several scholarships, travels abroad, and awards for his achievements in art, including seven artist-in-residence programs, including the Roswell Artist-in-Residence (2012-2013). Writing for Glasstire.com, D Magazine, and other publications prompted Richards to found Eutopia: Contemporary Art Review focused on concise arts writing. Richards has exhibited at the Bellevue Museum, Seattle; Roswell Museum, Roswell, NM; Olm Space, Switzerland; Public Address, Brooklyn; Antena, Chicago; Falling Water, Pennsylvania; Cornell University, Ithaca; Monkskirche, Tangermunde, Germany; C2 Pottery Gallery, China; Blue Star Contemporary Art Museum, San Antonio; ArtPace, San Antonio; The Luminary, St. Louis ; Lawndale, Houston; Amarillo Museum of Art; San Diego Art Institute; The London Art Fair; as well as The Power Station, The Reading Room, Beefhaus, and Gray Matters in Dallas. He has participated in The Texas Biennial 2011 and 2013 and the Dallas Biennial 2012 and 2014. Richards has works in the permanent collections of The Anderson Contemporary Museum, Roswell Museum, McNeese University, Richland College, and several private collectors.
Brief: art objects and perform actions that deal with seduction as tension and teasing the notion of aesthetics as a bedeviling influence
Yoshie Sakai is a Southern California-based artist whose work includes video, sculpture, installation and performance. She has held residency at the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture and has an MFA from Claremont Graduate University. She has a BFA from California State University, Long Beach, a BA in Ancient Greek and Latin from UCLA, and a BA in Communication Studies from UCLA. Yoshie’s work creates an uneasy environment that embodies her love-hate relationship with consumerism and pop culture and how they simultaneously perpetuate both ecstasy and extreme anxiety in quotidian life. In her work she explores humor as a complicated intersection where hope, happiness, anxiety, and darkness reside, much like in our society, as a tension-filled existence of both criticality and complacency.
Brief: I have always been seduced by the media for the worse, for the epic images they portray of “beautiful” people and “perfect” life scenarios that are far from “beautiful” and “perfect”. My goal for the seven days of @peformancearthouston is to use the medium of film and television, specifically the language of the soap opera, to “glamorize” quotidian imperfection and beauty.