A Tijuana tourist prop, the donkey cart is a bizarre symbol of tourist border culture.In the photos produced, tourists pose with live donkeys painted with zebra stripes, wearing hats that read things like “Cisco kid”, “caramba” and “drunk again”.As a mixed child (Chicana and white), I interacted with the donkey carts while traveling in Mexico with my father.The carts evoke memories of feeling out of place.On one of our trips to Mexico a cruise ship docked in a town we were visiting and tourists from the ship disembarked. Several of them began to take my photograph.At the time I was unable to articulate or comprehend what was happening and my feelings about it.In retrospect this is an example of something that has happened often and always made me feel ill at ease.I unintentionally raised the question of authenticity by being made in to a token and providing the perfect vacation photo, a little “Mexican” girl on display.In the moment of confusion filled with assumptions over identity and representation I felt voiceless.The Donkey cart mimics my experience of tokenization by appearing as a supposedly genuine artifact, one that tourists are allowed to read as a simple truth rather than a complex reflection of historical relationships between tourist and Tijuanenses.Objects like the donkey cart exist for the purposes of entertainment and commerce in the tourist market.But who is the joke on?The tourist who is willing to pay for a photo on the donkey/zebra wearing a hat that reads “drunk-ass” or is it the person who pushes the cart, offering an exploitive misrepresentation of them selves.For whose pleasure and at who’s expense are these images?
Through work with my own donkey cart I challenge these failed representations of human identity and culture in an attempt to salvage power and voice from what feels like a forced identification with a false identity.In the Tijuana tourist tradition I invite the public to be photographed riding a fake donkey with the misplaced paraphernalia and signage of their choice.The participants are prompted to mislabel them selves according to past experience of being misidentified.The tensions that exist in my fascination with problematic symbols such as the donkey cart are teased out in a playful manner during the process of image production.The donkey cart contributes to demeaning and lasting stereotypes about Mexicans, dumb, dirty and drunk. Yet I feel compelled to love and joyfully engage with these objects and challenge their message at the same time.The donkey cart posses a tremendous potential to expose its own lies and absurdity.
Language is a system we use to clear things up, to understand the bigger picture, but language can also conceal, withhold and confuse. What happens to our narratives when characters or settings are missing or taken away? I am interested in things that do not adhere. In fragmentation.
Made from degenerated photocopies and uncertain pencil drawings, these images are an exercise in the fragility of human perception. They value perceptual failures, and contain real boundaries: literally walls and windows and frames that limit access. The blank spaces are as important as the positive ones.
Through a process of reduction and transformation, these pictures withhold explanation and propose simple fictions that allow us to contemplate and construct meaning. There are things we know and things we cannot understand. These images are about not knowing, about absences and removes.
Is that girl dead that has flowers growing out of her chest and legs? Or is she just relaxing on vacay? Yeah, watching TV… I wonder what shows are her faves.She’s definitely a channel-surfer, that one.Riding the waves of melodrama and reality and sci-fi freakshows. I bet her mind has fallen flat. Her lightbulb isn’t as bright as most; her thinker has out-thunk itself.She’s ingested too much of that so-called melodrama, and it’s folded in on her.Glitter puffs and strings of color– technicolor, that is… It’s really a shame because I know how much her boyfriend loved to watch History’s Mysteries. Whatever happened to that lost guy anyways?
Down by the moon-lake, a creature made of tinsel and bamboo and plastic and fur lurks in the shadows.It’s quite dark actually, and any true form of the creature is difficult to make out.Maybe it’s my imagination seeing the acidic color and putrid psychedelia hanging from its brow.However uncomfortable (no, sorry, pathetic) it was, I was unable to let my eyes rest on it for too long.Pathetic.I walked back over to the lake to see if I could catch a good reflection of myself on its flickering surface, but there was too much zig-zagging on that screen.Color combos of the most sordid variety vibrating on the inside of my skull. Red, green and blue above my head?!Disgusting!
It’s a fake silver, that of imitation stage jewelry or a tarnished chrome wheel.It’s not anything that is worth much.She looks at the cracks in the mirror and fills them in with glowsticks and black marbles.A drip began at the middle of the white wall.It was kind of mauve, but I wish it had been the monster’s blood.What did it feel like to have that stickiness in your hands?Was it slick and rubbery like silly putty or elusive like a dangerous nap?Is that your loungewear on top of the pile or your mom?I think I lost my cookies–no, tossed them!But seriously, this isn’t a laughing matter.Is it worth bringing it back from the depths of the peculiar–the nonsensical?If I do then there is nothing there–or too much rather.
Kissy Monster with Marbles
Lipstick on inkjet print, acrylic paint,
rock, spray paint & marbles
The sculptures are unsure of their own ways of being–their forms.They are unsure of how to carry themselves in a world so vastly polluted with scrutiny, unsure of how to exist without being shy, to stand erect with nothing to poke or puncture and no one to dismiss or discard.The sculptures hover in-between, lively and static, both prop and relic.Instead they are photographically aggrandized by the use of theatrical lighting amplifying them, situating them within an otherworldly staged arena shrouded in the permitting realm of darkness.They are figures set against a ground, viewed through a lens, pathetic in any attempt to mystify and confuse.There is an urge for all to blur together and to be muddied.This uncertainty bears a semblance of a middle ground–the site where it all folds in onto itself.
Untitled (horizontal landscape)
21” x 16.5”
lumpen, guttural (in wax)
16.5” x 21”
16.5” x 21”
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child like foolishness leadinay?dear, debeen mislead.yone w day see werabid paogs in search of the same piece of spod, stinking fat.Famished?Get going. Herrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre smile, hope, wishudge me, judge theme how high we rank in the intctual struggle.Keep a stiff upper leep a low profile, keep ye’s peeled
cuz yoght fall off ad never hold, get, or be IT again.
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We’ll handt.Oats will keeps till they choo o stuus again.Study me again.theyn’t study, they glance.Quickly, loosts over and thats
at.Rabid dogshat it is?There’s never been a rrrrrrace run srd, so fast. U there, whin first?.
Valid, i gues, but not stroer than what I bring.
Willingly, i fell again.
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Senalka McDonald is drawn to spaces within the home. Rather than being a physical place, McDonald presents an internal home-space within the mind; a space where identity, voice and the impact of performative gesture create exposure, enforcing a circular gaze. McDonald is a recent recipient of the Murphy Cadogan Fellowship and has participated in the ROOTED and the Austin Project residencies. Recent selected exhibitions include Home After Dark (San Francisco, CA), Queer State(s) (Austin, TX) and Hello (San Francisco, California). McDonald is currently an MFA candidate at California College of the Arts, where she received full Graduate Merit and Diversity scholarships. She received Bachelor’s degrees in Fine Art and Cultural Geography from the University of Texas at Austin (2006). She currently resides in San Francisco, California.www.senalka.com
I am a figure model for drawing classes but I don’t draw. I don’t draw because I have never been very good at it and I lack the patience necessary for perfecting it. I am an artist insecure about my failure to master a craft of any traditional artistic merit. I have however mastered the craft of modeling for art.
It is an important personal and political activity to stand without shame in my body, despite that my relationship with my body is primarily about shame. I have found that in the moments when I am modeling I am more allied with my body than at most other times.
In this performance I set the terms of the situation and facilitated a public life drawing event. When people draw, their engagement is with the materials and their own practice at representing what they see. There are variations in skill, and projection but in many ways it ceases to be about the body standing in front of them.
Plein Aire is an art historical movement that brings the painter into natural light and out into nature, somewhat ironically the figure in life drawing classes is rarely seen in natural light because of prohibitions against nakedness. Drawing is an anachronism in the contemporary world. Attempting to engage the public in such unmediated activity was set to fail from the outset. I enlisted many people to come to the event and I encouraged curious passersby to draw me - instead of just photograph and videotape me. After I assured them that skill was not a requirement, several of them participated by drawing. Many of them courteously declined.
The violence that is done to women creates
reluctance or an inability to fully occupy their bodies. Most women are afraid to be naked in public space. De-sexualizing nakedness, might decrease the violence done to women by others and to themselves. This is a huge goal. Standing naked as a woman in primarily gay male space that is contested for its use as a naked area made me conspicuously female. In this contested space devoid of women, what am I doing here? Art as historically and institutionally sanctioned space for women and for nudity brought the answer to that question, and legitimated my presence, albeit through a bizarre dislocation.
Staging a Public Life Drawing Event gave me public voice and visibility. There is a directness to being seen only as human - unfettered by the façade of cultural signification that is expressed in the way we dress and what we say when we choose to speak. When I am naked the most evident element is my female body. That I am queer is invisible. That I am an anarchist is invisible.
To take something too far with either under or over exertion is non fullfilment of expectation. In the sense of art making, it is knowing when to stop or when to keep going that is the artists challenge. It is sometimes an easy decision to know when a work is finished, other times there is no solution, and a work remains unfinished or simply dies.
I began Blue Release with the intention that it was to be a pièce de résistance. My attempt to make it so, came after Red Release, which happened by chance but is quite a successful painting in my opinion. My thought was that if I record myself making a Blue Release in the same manner I remembered making Red Release, I would have documentation of the choreography of success. I could then duplicate the steps and make another successful painting based on the recorded movements.
I have never filmed myself painting before. I made Blue Release and filmed Operator Error simultaneously, and during the process, I was unsure of what to do next on the painting aspect, and I was always questioning if I had done enough. Normally I don’t have trouble making decisions in the studio. I felt that since I was recording the making of this painting, there had to be more going on. The fact that the camera was present had everything to do with my second guessing, because I was really aware of being watched. In the video, I act very cautious because I believe that the camera is capturing the secretes to my future successes.
Blue Release ended up not working very well as a painting, I would say it was over worked. When the piece was dry, I even went back in several weeks later and tried yet again to salvage the work by painting on top of it. These efforts did not yield a successful painting either. I see the video Operator Error as a documentation of disappointment.
It is impossible to recreate the choreography in Operator Error because the movement is chaotic and frankly, I do not have the desire to recreate it. To my surprise, Operator Error, did document a solution to my painting questions at the time. It took seven months to see the progression, but it is only looking back on the video now, that I see the next step was right under my nose. The graceful choreography of my practice is not of interest, because it does not exist. Grace never appears and probably never will in the making of my work. It is the battle with material in the making of Blue Release that is most exciting to me. I grapple with the plastic drop cloth I use to apply paint on to the canvas. The continual struggle with this material is what lead me to forgo paint all together and focus on plastic itself, a material I am using now to make what I consider exceeding my expectations.
Acrylic on canvas 2011 96” x 36”
UntitledDropClothsUntitled Yellow and Black
Acrylic and Plastic 72” x 96” 2011 yellow and black garbage bags 72” x 96” 2011
Untitled Black Bags
Acrylic and Black garbage bags 72” x 96” 2011
I stand on a platform. It’s not very tall, about two feet high. I look at you. You are standing on the ground, looking up at me. I am much taller than you. I have a physical advantage over you, I feel stronger than you. I could easily pin you to the ground, if I jumped. I can take you. I look down at you and I have power over you. I am looking at you. Pause. I begin to feel that it may be the other way around: you are looking at me. You are demanding that I give you something. I feel an expectation to perform. I am standing up here, taller, looking at you, and you expect me to use this position I have over you to do something for you. I am up on a platform, the object of your gaze. I feel vulnerable in my extreme visibility. I get stage fright, in French, “le trac,” which comes from the word “tracas,” hassle, trouble. I am unsettled and self-conscious: I did not come here to perform, I am not prepared. I have nothing to say. I look down at my feet. I look beyond my feet and to the ground. It is further away from me than usual; if I fall, I’ll fall two extra feet than when I stand on the ground. Thinking about this gives me vertigo, I feel like I am falling. I look up. I look beyond you, to where my taller perspective does not affect my balance. I pretend you are not here, my unwelcome audience. I look at the landscape. From up here, I can see things I usually can’t. This vantage point is better than the ground’s, from here I can see above the bushes and into that window. From here I can see better than you can.
I am standing on the ground, looking up at you. You are standing on a platform. You are looking down at me. I am smaller than you are; you are taller than I am. I am lower, I am below, I am inferior. I am looking at you and I am quiet. I wait for your word, for your action, for you to show me what you are up there to show me. I expect that you will start at any second, so I stop everything I am doing to pay attention to you. I prepare myself to absorb what you have to show me. I prepare: I keep my eyes open, focused on you, my thoughts waiting to hold your performance. I also prepare to judge your performance. I will like it, or I won’t. I prepare my rotten tomatoes, in case I dislike what you show me. I feel powerful in my position as your audience, having the agency to accept or reject you. I look up at you and meet your gaze. Your physical advantage is obvious. I fear I must like you, whatever you do, or else you might take me down if I express my disagreement. You are taller than I am. Your feet are close to my face. I look at my feet, sturdy on the ground. I look back up at you. I imagine you falling, I imagine breaking your fall with my body. I see the movement in slow motion and feel vertigo; what if I trip before I catch you? I imagine you’ve fallen off the platform. I imagine myself climbing up. I imagine standing on the platform. Pause. You are still standing on the platform and I am looking at your face. I see you are looking behind me, at something far away. I turn around to look where you are looking. I am too short to see what you see.
Hélène Schlumberger was born in France and lives and works in the United States. She is currently a Master of Fine Arts in Social Practice candidate at the California College of the Arts. Helene is interested in sculpture as a tool. Her experience of social displacement informs works that deal with translation and the bridging of human connectivity over physical distance. Her sculptural works, sometimes interactive and sometimes reliant on visual metaphors, are often made in common building materials, and many are like stages anticipating their performers; their potential is realized when people use and activate them.
From Where I Stand is a series of objects Hélène has photographed because of their potential use as platforms. The text focuses on the physical interaction two people might have with these platforms. This iteration of the project is an excerpt from a larger series of images.
In The Wizard of Oz, the Horse walks out of the scene, and then reappears again, as himself, only a different color; thus, his namesake.
1. The first problem: how?
Answer: They used multiple white horses for this shoot and dyed the fur of each one a different color.
What is the white horse?
romance elegance grace strength form beauty radiance love fantasy
(who in their right mind would dye this horse?)
Does white radiate all color?
Theoretically, black absorbs and white reflects all color. White is the color of many colors. It is also the color of absence. (It is: a whiteout, the color of a storm, a flash of light).
2. One could argue that a horse that is blue, as in Oz, is no longer a horse, as horses are not ever blue. If it is no longer a real horse, then it cannot be a real horse that changes colors, unless we are living in a fantasy.
Oz is a fantasy,
the horse is real.
Scenario: A human and a dog dress up as horses. They are owner and pet, female human owner, male dog pet. The dog is significantly shorter than the human (being that he is on four legs and average medium-dog-size, this is logical). The human, woman, is also of average size. The horse costumes are made of one-sided, white painted, plywood cutouts of horses, sized proportionately to whichever creature will wear it. They perform in a beautiful wooded environment, free of any other modern civilization: “nature.” They have two sets of actions. First, the big horse and little horse stand in the wooded area facing one another. At times, a human-woman hand reaches for the dog mouth (from behind the horse costumes) to give him a treat for standing still and looking at her. They also run across a field of tall grasses, the small horse trails behind the bigger one.
Question: Is a horse made out of plywood and strapped to a human or a dog as much a horse as a real horse dyed blue? What makes a horse?
3. A plywood horse takes on the personality of the creature donning the costume, through sound and movement. Also though, the creature donning the costume takes on the personality of the plywood horse, through form.
The scale creates a mama and baby horse. This is true even if neither is really true.
4. If you wear a costume, how much of yourself slips into it, how much slips out?
The person and the dog are not quite concealed by the horses: human legs emerge from below the horse’s belly, a dog’s neck and face turn behind the horse’s head.
There is a line in magic between wonderment and deception.
5. A horse that is multiple species is the same as a horse that is multiple colors, but maybe, actually, much more.
White is the color of purity. And ghosts. Also, plywood is completely flat; white makes it even flatter. What are flat white horses doing in a rich lush landscape? It is a romantic joke.
A horse of multiple species might be a horse that is also a person and also a dog. You have to believe, one might say. But it’s not the case. Belief, as a concept in magic, is actually the wrong pursuit. Belief will de-rail you. Belief is too big too tackle. Who cares about belief? It is about what is. This is a discussion of a horse that is a woman and a horse that is a dog, and a woman who is a woman, a dog who is a dog, and a couple-a horses who are a couple-a horses. Those things are given. Those things are known.