An assemblage of three IKEA chairs rises up from a stark-white cement plinth. Rubber cuffs bind the folding furnishings’s legs, suspending the trio in a tilted balletic pose. Swaths of buttery stygian latex cowl every finish of the metallic construction, evoking one thing between soaking-wet laundry frolicked to dry and s/m garb in shiny luxurious black.
The closing iteration of Itziar Barrio’s twelve-year challenge THE PERILS OF OBEDIENCE, 2010–22, was all in regards to the dialectics of intercourse, labor, and elegance. Guests skilled this interaction all through the gallery with a number of photo-based works, sculptures (such because the aforementioned Untitled (JEFF 7), and You Weren’t Acquainted however You Weren’t Afraid, each 2022, a three-channel video that options, amongst different issues, an unresolved debate between the Roman goddesses Minerva and Venus. (“Lavoro!” “Amore!,” they argue. “Lavoro!” “Amore!”).
The movie—the nucleus of the exhibition—follows Stella Kowalski, the character from Tennessee Williams’s play A Streetcar Named Need (1947) on a sequence of adventures. However that is Stella 2.0, a girl who abandons Stanley and New Orleans, starting anew in Bogotá by enjoying a intercourse employee in Colombian director Sergio Cabrera’s 1993 film La estrategia del caracol (The Technique of the Snail). She then goes off to Rome—the place she truly will get to satisfy Minerva and Venus—to tackle the function of one other prostitute in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Accattone (1961). Stella’s Odyssean journey is given even additional intertextual layers by way of Barrio’s metacinematic method: In every location, the artist casts a brand new set of thespians who work in entrance of reside audiences (or, typically, in empty white rooms) to develop the scenes and their characters.
Throughout these moments, the movie appears to pause to live-annotate itself—Barrio builds footnotes and appendixes into the work to interrogate, in actual time, “scriptedness” and ideas surrounding labor. Gamers converse on to the digital camera between run-throughs whereas answering deep questions given to them by the director. For example, queries regarding Blanche and Stanley “preferring chaos or order” flip extra private and philosophical: “Do you contemplate your self a frontrunner? What makes a frontrunner?,” asks Barrio. “Drive, ahead momentum, somebody with an ensemble mentality,” solutions the girl enjoying Stella. Sometimes, these interludes steer the narrative into varied speculative episodes, reminiscent of a quick music video starring one lead who additionally occurs to be a author/rapper IRL. The abrupt discontinuities in style really feel completely at house right here, producing a sequence of dynamic exchanges during which the power of language pivots the facility buildings at play. These in entrance of the digital camera have as a lot management as these behind it.
Talking of management: The probing of authority, authorship, and possession that characterizes Barrio’s movie crescendos within the work’s final act, when our down-and-out Stella stumbles upon the divine duo inside an extravagant villa in Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood. Our heroine feels hopeless after dropping her beloved boyfriend and pimp Accattone in a visitors accident. Who will defend the prostitutes, and the way? Venus, talking in rhymed couplets, cajoles Stella with impassioned verse into enjoying a significantly extra conventional feminine half. However a perturbed eye-rolling Minerva, fed up along with her companion’s purple poetry, argues for extra sensible ways. “For 3 thousand years, Venus has been defending prostitutes. In three thousand years she has not been in a position to make it right into a job.” The texts the deities learn when first encountering Stella completely encapsulate the dilemma: Venus holds an Italian translation of Paul B. Preciado’s Pornotopia: An Essay on Playboy’s Structure and Biopolitics (2011), a textual content in regards to the psychic and social buildings of pornography, whereas Minerva has Franco Farina’s 2018 quantity on Marx, the working class, and labor titled Karl Marx e il processo produttivo (Karl Marx and the Productive Course of). However this predicament is definitely generative. Very similar to Untitled (JEFF 7), with its dialectical drape, You Weren’t Acquainted however You Weren’t Afraid retains us suspended between the poles of Preciado and Farina, between want and work, between ardour and practicality, between the person and the communal. One thing’s stirring on this amorphous but fertile area—it may be the potential for real social impression.