POST BY PADDY JOHNSON
Amy Sillman, Transformer (or how many lightbulbs does it take to change a painting).
A CD slipped inside the back cover of Amy Sillman’s $1.00 zine at Sikkema Jenkins makes a largely unheard statement about emotion, painting, and the history of women. I suspect this mostly has to do with the fact that people rarely use CDs any more, but we’re also not talking easy listening here. At 38 minutes, the main track is a verbatim re-enactment of Tom Ford’s interview with Terry Gross about his movie “A Single Man“, starring Sillman as “Mary Gross” and K8 Hardy as Tom Ford. The acting is not good and it doesn’t attempt to be.
It probably wasn’t necessary to listen to the whole interview to get the entirety of Sillman’s message, but I did anyway because it took about that long to draw the connections. The longer I spent with it, the more the audio seemed an acknowledgment of the aren’t-painters-just-rehashing-what’s-already-been-done nail hammered into painting’s coffin. If a verbatim recitation of an interview isn’t commenting on the issue of pastiche in art, I don’t know what is. Notably, it offered few answers.
As outlined in the zine, the artist has more clarity on her position of the conceptual and the emotional and tactile, namely that they should exist together. The interview re-enforces these ideas, while exploring the subject of internal and external worlds. “When we see [Julian Moore] making up her face we see her unmade eye on one side of the screen.” K8 Hardy (AKA Tom Ford) tells us, “…we see a fully drawn eye on the other side and it’s her art. And it’s her artifice…And that’s the same with George, they’re both putting on layers, veneers, armor to get through their day.” As I interpret this in relation to the show, if art is what we use to get through the day perhaps the last century’s push and pull between conceptual and intuitive painting makes sense. We need both.
This spectrum of choice plays out in other ways as well. That a gay woman plays the role of Tom Ford, a man known for creating ads that objectify women is no accident. This move falls a bit flat though, the banal re-enactment neutering its socio-political implications. A woman in control of her own image and that of others is powerful, a woman pretending to be a man in control of those same things, is simply role playing.
Editors note: Further thoughts on the show and the AFC comment thread to follow.