Perverse approximation is the stuff of Laurel Nakadates work.
Perverse approximation is the stuff of Laurel Nakadates work. The borderline is the transit area. She gropes the borderline. It is there that her videos begin, develop and end. She never goes beyond it.
Influenced by the feminist artists of the 1970s like Cindy Sherman, Louise Lawler or Lynda Benglis, she turns once again to the issues of the machista man, his mechanisms for maltreating and harassing women, and applies them personally. Loneliness and vulnerability marks out the range of humanity, as regards state of mind and social milieu, which is suitable for applying these practices.
For four years, when she was a student, she went to the parties organized by the university. All night long, she watched how drunk and bare-ass girls gave themselves away to boys and professors. The photographs she began to take in that period are the cornerstone of the work she has worked on since then.
In the series of photographs Lucky Tiger (2008), Laurel plays pin-up girl. In the center of the scene, in a bikini, or as a girl scout, she struts around in barren landscapes, highways, parking lots, truck stops. The photos are smeared with black fingerprints. Laurel contacted men through the classified ads, met them, inked their fingers and gave them the photographs for them to look at them well, to touch them. In that way she implicated them with concrete physical evidence. She subverted the male gaze. She manipulated them.
This idea of hunter and prey becomes overt in I Wanna Be Your Mid-life Crisis (2008). She is always the hunter.
Laurel enters into conversations on the street with lonely middle-aged strangers who accost her. She speaks to them expressly to convince them to make a video with her. She speculates with their need to communicate, to have a dialogue with someone. She goes to their houses, on her own and with her video camera. Once there, she establishes herself in their homes, authoritatively and glibly. She chats intermittently with the men while doing unexpected things. Unhurriedly, she poses in a bikini. She puts music on, dances and makes them dance. She rings the doorbell with a wedding cake to ask to be accompanied in her celebration, causes them to sing happy birthday to her and clap. She poses braless and makes them draw her. Sometimes, they each separately do what they feel like, in coexistence before the camera. Hours and hours of film. An entire day.
Laurel addresses her regard and her movements to the camera, not the men. Laurel is on another level, not wrapped up in the situation. The men go along with it. They dont quite understand whats going on but accept the situation.
The theme of observing is constant. Them watching me, me watching them. They want something from me, I want something from them. Its a sort of powerplay that flows. I have this moment with the camera,this moment to the viewer, its a moment just to myself, Laurel states.
In other works in this series, she models for a bizarre artist, holds a weapon against a squatting man who begs for mercy, or falls, bleeding, in a supermarket aisle, lied dead on a sofa, on the ground or on a strangers kitchen table. The camera, always on, records everything for public exhibition.
She acts in a similar fashion in Good Morning, Sunshine (2009). In this series of videos, Laurel sets herself up, camera in hand, in front of teenage girls asleep in their rooms. She frames them sleeping in their bed, in their bedroom. We see the details of the room, of their belongings, of their dis-order. She films the way she sleeps. Laurel begins to waken one of them. The young woman demurs, begins to open her eyes. Laurel insists. She neither alters nor edits real time. Parsimoniously, she gives her orders. Wake up. Sit up. How pretty you are. Stand up. Let me look at you. Get up on the bed. Now jump. Take off your nightie. Lie down. On your back. Front forward. Look at the ceiling. Touch your belly. Touch your belly button. The teenagers, childlike, shy, unquestioningly, do as told. Laurel, the offscreen scene director, tightens the tension. The discomfort becomes too acute. And so it continues. It neither lessens nor climaxes.
365 Days: A Catalogue of Tears (2011): After a breakup with a lover Laurel goes on a trip with no planning ahead and documents herself crying. Really crying, or not, she obtains 365 shots of the before, during and after of weeping. Each day, over the course of a year, visiting many venues which in a romantic ideal are meant for twosomes: hotels, planes, trains…. from January 1 to December 31. A disciplined performance. An exercise, with a predetermined duration, with which to handle her real situation.
In her first feature-length work, Stay the Same, Never Change (2008) (presented at Marfici 2009, premiered at the Sundance Festival the same year), Laurel sets her sights on a group of teenagers lasciviously living their exquisite boredom in Kansas City. This time she chooses amateur performers whom she personally directs. She scripts, directs, films and edits the complete work.
Her second feature, The Wolf Knife (2010), again takes up the same kind of language from the first scene onwards, but from very close up. Breathing, pores, gazes, lips, burst, this time, into us. The tender bodies are in our own space. Abusable. The absence of a project renders them even more vulnerable.
Nakadates intention is to make realistic works, taking into account that the real is an area of transition between what takes place and what is imagined.
Exercising power in a manner simultaneously systematic and non conclusive fits in with a certain sensibility of the era and with the searches of a third-generation feminism.
Throughout her work, sexual harassment is tenacious and uniform. Explicit voyeurism is perpetual. Laurel provokes sexual arousal once and again and at the same time cuts it off. She collapses it, sometimes through abusers (herself, for example), while other times its cut off by the characters own insecurities. The sexual and metaphysical instances turn, in the most clearly defined cases, into something lost or something distorted.
Laurel Nakadate (1975, Austin, Texas, USA) lives and works in Nueva York. She has exhibited in Greater New York, MoMA PS1 (2005); the Getty Museum, the Asia Society and the Queen Sofía Museum. She has participated in numerous international film festivals, including the Los Angeles Film Festival of 2009, New Directors/New Films at the MoMA (2009), Marfici (2009), Sundance Festival (2009). Only the Lonely is her first solo show at MoMA PS1 (2011).
Photo: 365 Days: A Catalogue of Tears (2011)
by Laurel Nakadate
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Publicado en Leedor 14-07-2012