Holbein's originality, then, lies in this vision of Christly death that is devoid of pathos and is intimate on account of its very banality. Humanization thus reached its highest point: the point at which glory is obliterated through the image. When the dismal brushes against the nondescript, the most disturbing sign is the most ordinary one.
-Julia Kristeva, Holbein's Dead Christ
Last weekend, Steve Turner Contemporary presented Zackary Drucker's performance, The Inability to Be Looked at and the Horror of Nothing to See. Drucker, dressed only in white panties, laid prone atop a cold steel table like a corpse prepared for dissection. Her mouth was blocked by a silver ball, as if she were filled up with the glamour of death. She offered her hybrid body, as an idealized Christ who contained both male and female in an organic mutuality.
Viewers were directed, by a disembodied voice, through a series of breathing exercises, new-age visions, and dysphoric confessions, all the while being instructed to pluck out the hair from the androgynous body of the artist. The often satirical voice directed the viewers to manifest their own fears and anger into the action of hair removal, as Drucker took on the emotional suffering of the audience through her own physical pain. She did not flinch or cry out, her suffering was silent. At one point the voice directed the audience to chant that "despite all efforts to become a woman, she will be doomed to a life as a man," reiterating a psychic and physical pain akin to spiritual damnation.
While live art is always riveting, what is remarkable about Drucker's performance is her ability to decenter gender identity through mundane ritual. She does not present an erotic or monstrous body, rather she enacts a vulnerable being who embodies death. She reveals the transgender body as a natural body, a mortal body like all the other bodies in the room. Drucker's body transformed into a connective tissue, and became a mirror for the audience to reflect upon their own existential afflictions.
From the gallery press release:
Zackary Drucker is a limp-wristed, switch queen/Los Angeles-based artist. Infusing elements of installation, performance, text, photography, and video, Drucker's work explores under-recognized aspects of queer history while simultaneously inscribing her own experience and position within it. Drucker reactivates Bruce Rodgers’ The Queens’ Vernacular, documents relationships and secret legacies, and challenges conventions of entertainment and drag performance, as well as existing art-historical representations of queer people. Oscillating between documentary, mythology, and personal narrative, the work is an exploration of gender as it is constructed, deconstructed, and experienced.
Drucker's exhibition, The Inability to Be Looked at and the Horror of Nothing to See will be on view at Steve Turner Contemporary June 6 - July 2, 2009, opening reception June 6, 6-8pm