Calendar » Today in colorado Springs

CC exhibit: Living history

Three artists take critical eyes and self-portraits to archival images



Performing Identities, she found three artists, exploring three different cultures, in three very similar projects.

Albert Chong, Pushpamala N. and Coco Fusco each were researching 19th-century images and how they represented the cultures within. The artists had then aimed to recreate the scenes, assuming the assigned roles for themselves in self-portraits.

"This exhibition looks specifically at how people in different cultures have been portrayed; it's a critique of anthropology in some regards," Larsen says. "[The artists] are all assuming these characters, acting out various stereotypes and trying to capture something authentic from those original images."

While maintaining historical essences, the artists attempted to move beyond the stagnant images that have defined certain peoples. For example, photographer Pushpamala N. looked at older images of East Indian women in roles they were expected to take on. In her work, she reconstructs a set for her own self-portrait image, incorporating the iconic aspect but also conveying a contemporary sense of irony. The result is a deconstruction of perceived notions of Indian femininity.

"She's engaging all of these ideas on multiple levels, along with a high level of craft and sophistication," Larsen says.

Albert Chong researched images of the Rastafarian mystic, both in the 19th century and in today's pop culture, for his series of photographs. By looking at the images and recreating a scene for his self-portrait, Larsen says, Chong enacts something essential to the character that confronts the Western romantic concepts of Jamaican life.

In the video The Couple in the Cage: Guatinaui Odyssey, Coco Fusco and Guillermo G'mez-Pea documented a series of live performances in which they took on the characteristics of two fictional indigenous people from South Africa. The live-performance piece, which was held in various museums and public spaces throughout the world, features the two in a cage with chains around their necks, performing tribal dances and rituals.

What emerges in the film, according to Larsen, is the reaction of audiences. Not recognizing the performance as satire, some people grow outraged, even calling the police.

Fusco had assumed people knew the history of living exhibits demonstrations featuring living people as "artifacts" were common in the 18th and 19th centuries and the performance was supposed to be a critique of those practices. The film, which features information about past live exhibits as well as clips from the performance, now focuses on engaging audiences to think about historical cultural representations and the continuation of those depictions.

In short, Performing Identities seeks to uncover hidden assumptions and biases while still maintaining the authenticity of the past.

"This exhibition looks at how performance constructs, questions and captures identity," Larsen says. "It's a critique of those colonial practices that influence contemporary thinking."

Performing Identities
CC's Coburn Gallery, 902 N. Cascade Ave.
Exhibit runs Jan. 11 through Feb. 16; reception Friday, Jan. 25, 4:30-7 p.m.
Free; call 389-6797 or visit for more.

Add a comment

Clicky Quantcast