Liquid Love brings together works that consider expressions of love, desire, and affection when these basic human needs are highly mediated and manipulated for profit by technological platforms. The show takes its title from sociologist Zygmunt Bauman’s 2003 book, where he argues that the logic of the capitalist market has thoroughly infiltrated the modern individual’s approach to relationships, as realized in everything from counseling fads to online dating. Citing widespread detachment and isolation, Bauman warns against the corrosive influence of consumerism on human bonds at all levels. By presenting a complicated picture of contemporary human connection, Liquid Love reflects on our ability to connect, romantically or otherwise, under neoliberal capitalism through and within our tools.
Olivia Mole’s new work Dud Ankress (2018) is a hybrid performance, sculpture, and installation centered on the figure of the anchoress, a medieval female hermit. Cloistered in the front cabin of the truck, her character communicates through a dedicated Instagram account. The piece dramatizes our general seclusion and dependence on the screen to reach an outside world. Similar to Mole’s past projects that pastiche theory, history, and theater to build alternate worlds brimming with absurdity, Dud Ankress transforms the familiar environment of the driver’s seat into the anchoress’s domain.
Other works in the exhibition likewise consider the limitations and failures of language to link us through our tools. Sophia Le Fraga and Rindon Johnson’s Not Sorry (2014–15) combines Le Fraga’s poetry with Johnson’s snapshots in the form of a View-Master. An analog film of sorts collaboratively produced after the artists’ own breakup, the format of a stereoscopic toy intentionally requires a solitary viewer to flip through the slides. Punctuated by the everyday shorthand used in text and direct messaging, Le Fraga’s poetry functions as subtitles throughout.
Kathy Cho’s film Yuna (미리야!) (2017) culls the artist’s personal Twitter feed to create a diaristic narrative from her observations, affirmations, and internal monologues. Utilizing text-to-speech technology in Korean-accented English by Siri, these intimate snippets from Cho’s life—about anxiety, relationships, race/gender dynamics within the art world, et cetera—consider the vulnerability inherent in one’s online performance of self and identity. Some online platforms assert problematic power structures. Angela W ashko looks at the operation of gender in male-dominated corners of gaming culture and the internet, often staging interventions to test or question the assumptions at play within these spaces, whether on World of Warcraft or the misogynistic online forums and blogs of the “manosphere.” An offshoot of her larger research into the internet subculture of pickup artists, in particular the notable blogger Roosh V, her twitter bot @pua_vernacular (2017) automatically pulls terms popular in these forums like “Hot Bitch Scale” or “blue pill” and defines them using phrases pulled from gender studies textbooks. In a small way, the project helps proliferate other meanings for these terms.
Ann Hirsch’s website Cuts (2017) also reveals the operation of gender and race online, here in the realm of internet pornography. Although constituting a large percentage of internet traffic, the subject is absent from mainstream conversations. For the work, Hirsch watched thousands of hours of straight internet pornography and compiled “supercut” videos of repeatedly staged fantasies for categories like “anal,” “teen,” “interracial,” and “amateur.” These websites rely on the business of view counts, and provide an algorithmic tally of a culture’s desires, which Hirsch surfaces and reflects back to the viewer. Dancers in the Dark, one of the videos featured on the Cuts site, continuously plays in the truck.
Capitalism’s hold on ideas of romance, and its capacity to confuse the value of work and labor, are addressed in Cara Benedetto’s newly commissioned edition Women as Lovers (2018). Using the same printing techniques as movie posters or advertisements, and structured like a “how to” guide similar to many listicles online, under the header “How to Survive Romantic Love” the poster provides tips for the modern-day lover. Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman, an emblem of gender, sexuality, vengeance, and power, is in the background. The text considers the historical and social construction of “romance” with an understanding of the climactic urges and apocalyptic fantasies tied to the acceleration of culture and production. Referencing the 1975 novel Women as Lovers by Elfriede Jelinek, Benedetto places women squarely at the center of an impossible equation in which no human can survive.
Yelena Zhelezov’s ceramic sculptures also consider diminished boundaries between personal, professional, and consumer lives. Her figures are modeled after commercial stock photographs of people on their computers while in bed. This intimate domestic space has become yet another workplace, a reality so ubiquitous that it is the subject of numerous stock photos, images that are themselves entirely transactional. Zhelezov’s handmade renderings add a sense of fragility to these scenes.
Human bodies as they reach and connect through devices are on display in photographer and video artist Rollin Leonard’s Kissing Underwater (2016–17). The melting effect in the photo sculpture was achieved by shooting the kissing figures through pools of water on the surface of etched glass, then fragmenting the portraits into small pieces treated with resin to appear like droplets. The work is part of Leonard’s larger efforts to rethink portraiture using advanced techniques, specifically to understand how we see each other through the machines that see us.
The body is likewise central to the jewelry line Small Things, which updates the notion of the grotesque for the present day. The earrings and pendants morph and melt recognizable human body parts such as mouths and hands, eyeballs and heads, as well as bloody tampons, waffles, and other random objects. For Liquid Love, the gallerist wears a newly commissioned single earring that features an interlocked chain of multiple small hands and mouths that emerge from, and clasp to each other. These colorful polymer clay miniatures playfully exaggerate a hungry body that licks and feels its way through the world, feeding an endless cycle of wants and needs.
Cara Benedetto is an artist and writer. She received her MFA from Columbia University in 2009. Her work has been exhibited at Metro Pictures, New York; MOCA Cleveland; and the Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, Poland. She is represented by Chapter NY, New York, and Night Gallery, Los Angeles. In 2014 Benedetto was a fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, Germany, and a recipient of a Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant. She is the author of two romance novels, The Coming of Age (Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste Stuttgart, 2014) and Burning Blue (Badlands Unlimited, 2015) and the editor of Contemporary Print Handbook (Halmos, 2016). Benedetto is an assistant professor in Print Media at Virginia Commonwealth University. carabenedetto.com
Kathy Cho is an artist and curator whose practice focuses on affect theory, labor, feminisms, and archiving lived experience and alternative histories. Her work manifests in loose narratives created with objects, images, writings, and events. She previously curated exhibitions for High Tide Gallery in Philadelphia, and currently co-curates with Present Futures. She holds a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is currently pursuing an MFA in curating at Goldsmiths, University of London. kathycho.info
Sophia Le Fraga is a poet and an artist. She is the author of Other Titles by Sophia Le Fraga (If a Leaf Falls, 2016), The Anti-Plays (Gaus, 2015), literallydead (Spork 2015), I RL, YOU RL (minuteBOOKS, 2013, Troll Thread, 2014), and I DON’T WANT ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE INTERNET (KTBAFC, 2012). Her work was included in From Concrete to Liquid, Centre d’Art Contemporain Genève, Geneva (2017), This Known World, MOCA, Los Angeles (2017), Greater New York, MoMA PS1, Long Island City, New York (2015), and Performa 15, New York (2015). Le Fraga is the poetry editor of Imperial Matters and a member of Collective Task. sophialefraga.com
Ann Hirsch is a video and performance artist who examines the influence of technology on popular culture and gender. Her immersive research has included becoming a YouTube “cewebrity” with more than two million video views and an appearance as a contestant on Frank the Entertainer in a Basement Affair on VH1. She was awarded a Rhizome commission for her two-person play Playground (2013), which debuted at the New Museum, New York, and was premiered by South London Gallery at Goldsmiths College, London. She has had recent solo shows at MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts; Steve Turner, Los Angeles; and the New Museum’s online project space First Look. She is a 2017 recipient of the Rema Hort Mann Emerging Artist Grant. therealannhirsch.com
Rindon Johnson is a multidisciplinary artist and writer whose sculptures, videos, and performances have been featured at Haus der elektronischen Künste Basel, Switzerland; Human Resources, Los Angeles; MoMA PS1, Long Island City, New York; and the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia, among others. Johnson is the author of Nobody Sleeps Better Than White People (Inpatient, 2016), the virtual reality book Meet in the Corner (Publishing-House.Me, 2017), and Shade the King (Capricious, 2017). Johnson’s writing has been published by Artforum, the Brooklyn Rail, Cultured, INCA Miami, the Miami Rail, the New Museum, and Rhizome. Johnson lives between Brooklyn and Berlin. rinjohnson.com
Rollin Leonard holds a degree in philosophy from the University of Minnesota, where most of his reading focused on minds, bodies, and machines. He has spent more than ten years pursuing digital explorations and experimentations on the human body, capturing more than three thousand human subjects in every imaginable way. Currently his studio practice revolves around developing new studio photography techniques and producing semi-sculptural works on paper and plastic, and in video. His work has been exhibited at Transfer Gallery, New York; the Photographer’s Gallery, London; the Museum of the Moving Image, New York; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; and Centre Pompidou, Paris. He lives and works in Los Angeles. rollinleonard.com
Olivia Mole attended the Ruskin School of Art at the University of Oxford and the National Film and Television School. She worked as a set designer and art director for ten years in the film and animation business in Los Angeles, and returned to making studio art in 2013 while living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has shown in San Francisco at Southern Exposure, Steven Wolf Fine Arts, the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, and CLOACA Projects, in Oakland at Pro Arts, and in Los Angeles at JOAN Gallery, where she is now based. She is currently a student in the MFA program at UCLA. Upcoming projects include a group show at Human Resources, Los Angeles,, curated by Emily Mast. oliviamole.org
Small Things is a line of wearable sculptures handcrafted from polymer clay. The work derives from a fascination with miniatures, anatomy, and the grotesque, and a childhood obsession with Ms. Frizzle’s outfits. nobigthing.xyz
Angela Washko is an artist, writer, and facilitator devoted to creating new forums for discussions of feminism in spaces frequently hostile toward it. She is an assistant professor of art at Carnegie Mellon University, a fellow at the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, and a recent recipient of a Franklin Furnace Performance Fund grant, a Frank-Ratchye Fund for Art at the Frontier grant, and a Rhizome Internet Art microgrant. Washko’s practice has been highlighted in Art in America, Frieze, Time, The Guardian, Artforum, ARTnews, The Hairpin, and the New York Times. Her projects have been presented at Kiasma, Helsinki, Finland; the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; the Milan Design Triennale; Shenzhen Independent Animation Biennale, China; the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; and the Rotterdam International Film Festival. Her writings have been published in Creative Time Reports, FIELD Journal of Socially Engaged Art Criticism, Neural, VASA Journal on Images and Culture, .dpi Feminist Magazine of Art and Digital Culture, and elsewhere. angelawashko.com
Yelena Zhelezov works in sculpture, video, and performance. She holds an MFA from CalArts and divides her time between Los Angeles and Polotsk, Belarus. Her work examines the effect of image-based storytelling on the ways that history is formalized in the public imagination. Her work has been presented at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Museum of Jurassic Technology, Los Angeles; Human Resources, Los Angeles; Actual Size Gallery, Los Angeles; the Ural Biennale, Yekaterinburg, Russia; and the Wro Biennale, Wroclaw, Poland. She is a host of the Spoken Film Radio show on KCHUNG Radio. yezhe.net