Strong Feelings Can be Hard to Bear, 2010
Two C-Print photographs mounted on Dibond with frame
58 1/4 x 84 5/8 inches
Chantal Akerman, Marie Angeletti, Lutz Bacher, Barbara Kruger, Josephine Pryde, Heji Shin and Akram Zaatari
Greene Naftali is pleased to announce Swingers, a group show featuring seven artists who explore structures of desire within the context of the culture industry. Taking its title from Lutz Bacher’s 2018 series, the exhibition focuses on artists who use photography and video to scrutinize how desire has been calculated, monetized, and leveraged by consumer culture. While some works target the modern subject’s participation in a neoliberal paradigm where individuality and desire are harnessed as forms of capital, other artists pursue more personal approaches to mine the ways one’s subjectivity can merge with its own objectification. Aware of their status within this creative economy, the works in Swingers take different approaches to uncover how the representation and commodification of desire in turn mediates the relationship between self and other.
Akram Zaatari’s 2012 film Her + Him centers on the career of Egyptian portrait photographer Van Leo and his relationship with Nadia, a woman he photographed in the 1950s and his only client to request nude portraits. By imagining the possible motivations behind Nadia’s unique request, the film reflects on issues of desire and self-representation. In her 2015 series #lonelygirl, Heji Shin uses conventional advertising techniques to photograph a monkey holding fetish objects. The monkey acts as a surrogate, parodying the hyper-sexualized form of self-portraiture found online accompanied by that hashtag. In Men Photographing Men from 2018, Shin produces pornographic simulations, highlighting pornography’s institutionalization by reproducing narrative formulas and visual clichés of the genre. Erotic self-presentation is also at play in Marie Angeletti’s recurrent photograph of Pablo Picasso’s La Douceur, recently on view at the Met Breuer. Painted by a young Picasso, the self-portrait was later disowned by the artist. Conjointly, a set of Angeletti’s 35mm slides spans the gallery windows in rows of two, reaching beyond the wall into Greene Naftali’s back offices.
In Lutz Bacher’s Swingers, the artist reprints 1970s classified ads taken from magazines devoted to the lifestyle. Here, text and image communicate in coded detail what each subject is looking for in a sexual partner. Pre-internet, the borderline-pornographic portraits present a nuanced picture of bodies on display, and of sex and desire within this early social network. Josephine Pryde’s 2010 series Therapie Thank You circumnavigates both advertising and portrait photography. The close-up, figurative photo-abstractions of draped Issey Miyake dresses suggest a feminine body, but never fully deliver. Only the titles of the photographs, rhetorical questions and fragments, offer a veiled insight into the aspirations of a desiring subject. Barbara Kruger’s Untitled (Project for Dazed and Confused) also employs the visual codes of advertising and fashion images by overlaying black and white photographs from magazine spreads with her own words. Although originally created for Dazed and Confused magazine in the 1990s, these works speak to the dialectic of narcissism and voyeurism that reins across social media platforms.
Chantal Akerman’s 1975 film Jeanne Dielman chronicles three days in the life of the widowed mother of a teenage son. The film meticulously follows Jeanne as she completes domestic chores, such as cooking and cleaning, and as she performs her job as a prostitute, all within the confines of her Brussel’s apartment. The repression of desire haunts the entire film. The detailed look into the domestic routines of a woman was considered radical for storytelling of its time. Today, it invites reflection on the infinite ways in which our private experiences are displayed, consumed, and commodified. The film will screen twice daily at 10am and 2pm for the duration of the exhibition.