The Digital Face

May 12th - June 23rd, 2012
Viewings Wednesday-Saturday


VARIOUS SMALL FIRES is pleased to present the west coast debut of Liz Magic Laser. Laser will exhibit video works from three recent performances: I Feel Your Pain (a Performa Commission, Produced by Performa), Flight, and The Digital Face. Laser will additionally present a series of new collages that explore the relationship between the performers, audience and camera in these performances.

For opening night only, Laser will present Preview, a live performance in collaboration with Katie Simone Nehra. Preview is an interactive monologue that adapts language from movie trailers that command audience members to imagine losing their identity. An earlier incarnation of Preview debuted at Recess Inc. in New York City on March 8th, 2010, with actor Max Woertendyke as part of Simone Leigh's Be Black Baby project. Run time is approximately 6 minutes.

I Feel Your Pain (2011), a Performa 11 Commission, was performed, filmed and edited in real-time in the midst of an audience in a movie theater. Eight actors perform a sequence of scenes that trace the progression of a relationship using dialogue adapted from political interviews such as Glenn Beck, Hillary Clinton, Sarah Palin, Barack Obama, and John Boehner. As the actors performed, selected footage from three cinematographers was projected onto the screen in a continuous live-feed with Laser acting as real time editor. Drawing on the Soviet agitprop model of a “living newspaper,” I Feel Your Pain examines how emotions are used to establish authenticity and garner public support on America’s political stage.

The Digital Face (2012), which debuted last month in New York at MoMA PS1, isolates and examines the studied body language of politicians. Laser works with dancers Cori Kresge and Alan Good to replicate the gestural movement from two State of the Union addresses: President Barack Obama in 2012 and President George H. W. Bush in 1990 speech, which Laser claims is the first televised State of the Union address featuring gesticulating hands. The two performers juxtapose distinct historical moments to highlight the evolution of the politician’s performance. The title, The Digital Face, references the ideas of François Delsarte who developed oratorical theories and exercises in the early 19th century. In Delsarte’s vocabulary, “digital” refers to fingers.

Flight (2011), performed in Times Square and MoMA PS1, features six actors performing chase scenes that utilize stairs from films including Vertigo, American Psycho and 28 Days Later. The twenty-three scenes are collaged and re-staged in the middle of a live audience seated on a grand staircase. The video adapts cinematography from the original films to present a fast-paced series of slippages where villains become victims and witnesses become perpetrators. Flight traces the historical arc of the staircase in cinema as it shifted from an arena of revolutionary struggle in Battleship Potemkin to the site of private trauma in films like The Shining.

Laser lives and works in New York City. Her work has been reviewed by The New York Times, ArtForum, Modern Painters, The New Yorker, Frieze, Art Review, and Art in America among other major publications. Laser has recently exhibited at the Ljubljana Biennial, The Studio Museum in Harlem, and The Pace Gallery. She has had solo exhibitions at Derek Eller Gallery in New York and has an upcoming exhibition at Malmö Konsthall, Sweden. Laser is a graduate of the Columbia University MFA program, Whitney Independent Study Program, and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Liz Magic Laser is her real name from birth.

CREDITS: I Feel Your Pain features actors Lynn Berg, Audrey Crabtree, Ray Field, Annie Fox, Kathryn Grody, Rafael Jordan, Liz Micek, and Ryan Shams. The video was made with producer David Guinan and cinematographers Alex Hadjiloukas, Collin Kornfeind and Matthew Nauser of Polemic Media; costume stylist: Felicia Garcia-Rivera; still photographer Yola Monakhov; technical crew: Will Chu, Brandon Polanco, Irwin Seow and Tristan Shepherd. The script includes editorial contributions from Scott Indrisek, Wendy Osserman, Jess Wilcox and Tom Williams. Co-presented by the School of Visual Art’s Visual and Critical Studies and BFA Fine Arts Departments. Supported by Performa Curators Circle member Joanne Cassullo/Dorothea Leonhardt Fund, Esther Kim Varet and Joseph Varet, Communities Foundation of Texas, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, National Endowment for the Arts, and The Dedalus Foundation. Flight features actors Nic Grelli, Elizabeth Hodur, Liz Micek, Michael Wiener, Lia Woertendyke and Max Woertendyke. The video was produced with David Guinan of Polemic Media. The performance was sponsored by Times Square Alliance and the Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art.

Liz Magic Laser, 2012, Installation View, Photo: Calvin Lee