Watch Lexie Mountain’s Wonderfully Weird Documentation

by Michael Anthony Farley on March 18, 2016 Blurb

Today, artist Lexie Mountain published this video to YouTube and announced it with the Facebook message “Finally finished editing the documentation to my 2014 performance ‘Fred Worden Cuts a Couch in Half with a Chainsaw.’ I find it so strange and difficult to watch, which is why it took me two years to even review the footage.” It was brought to my attention because [full disclosure] I have very brief cameo in the background of one scene. Lexie and I went to grad school together in the Imaging Media and Digital Art program at the University of Maryland Baltimore County and the footage is from our MFA thesis exhibition opening.

I love this video on many levels—Lexie and I spent a lot of time in grad school talking about the phenomenology of documentation—but mostly it’s just so damn odd. The first half of the video follows Lexie and experimental filmmaker/professor Fred Worden as they drive around a suburban blandscape looking to rent a Home Depot chainsaw and have a meandering conversation. After discussing the real-life events leading up to Worden’s 1986 film HOW THE HELL I RIPPED JACK GOLDSTEIN’S PAINTING IN THE ELEVATOR, Lexie turns to Worden and announces:

“I sort of imagine this happening as if in a dream…”

“…It’s your dream but I’m in it.”

“It’s my dream of what the 1970’s would be like.”

Fred Worden waiting to cut Lexie Mountain's couch in half with a chainsaw.

Fred Worden waiting to cut Lexie Mountain’s couch in half with a chainsaw.

The pair then walk through the gallery to a drab amphitheater, where an impossibly shiny fainting couch is propped up on cinder blocks and a crowd (including me) is waiting. Rather than memorialize the performance as something monumental, the documentation reveals all the awkwardness of Worden fumbling to start the saw while a clearly stressed Lexie darts around nervously in an all-black outfit like a stage hand. When the couch (which she considered as a frame for the subjugation of the passive female in representational art) is destroyed, it’s oddly anti-climactic. This is reinforced by the remaining several minutes of the video, which shows the couch fragments plopped limply in a gallery, all but ignored save someone bumping into them.

Everything about ‘Fred Worden Cuts a Couch in Half with a Chainsaw’ is the antithesis of antiseptically-edited documentation that strives to glorify a gesture. Here audio recorders are visible, the “blooper reel” makes up the majority of the content, and the actual act of destruction (which is really just GIF-length) seems almost like an afterthought to the day’s other events. There’s almost no discussion of why any of this is happening—only seemingly irrelevant context. It’s absurd and awkward and wholly endearing.

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