POST BY DAVID HARPER
In a world of WebMD-induced hypochondria, artist Marianna Ellenberg's Positive/Negative may be exactly what the art doctor ordered. After all, what better way to self diagnosis is there, than to choose two opposing test results and then conflate them by tone alone? By playing with the absurdity of medical jargon (where else is a negative result a positive conclusion?), the artist produces a work challenging the fears associated with sickness.
The video, which is one segment of an in-progress, multi-channel installation, captures a character played by pixyish performance artist Jennifer Sullivan. Sullivan interacts with her mirror self in a split-screen, and each side repeats one phrase – either “I tested positive” or “I tested negative.” As the work begins, nothing seems out of the ordinary, but as the mantras grow in fervor, punctuated by the occasional fist-pump, the artist's intent to expose the meaninglessness of language without context becomes clear.
Positive/Negative is on view in “Hell, No!” at St. Cecelia Convent, 21 Monitor Street, Brooklyn, through May 9, 2010.
David Harper maintains Art Fag City's Single File column, and is the blog's Curatorial Fellow. Harper is the Visual Arts Curator for The Brooklyn Academy of Music.