Exhibition: Sarah Mendelsohn featuring Fred Schmidt-Arenales,
Plaines Project, Chicago, 1.19-2.8.2013
At the scene of the crime and far from it:
A few minutes after the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Firdos Square, Baghdad, April 9, 2003, Donald Rumsfeld told reporters: “The scenes of free Iraqis…are breathtaking.”
Stretches Topless presents a group of paintings alongside excerpts from a video project created with Fred Schmidt-Arenales between July and December, 2012. Beginning with the 2003 footage in Iraq, I direct Fred in a series of performances to translate the toppling of the statue into a repeatable, embodied movement. Performed in different locations, in private and in public, this process opens up over time. The resulting footage conveys an agile interpretation, and an increasingly fluid translation between director and performer. As we make the videos, I use the performances as material for a series of large oil paintings on nylon sheets, pulling imagery directly from them, and from the associations they provoke.
The performances become a counter-document to the YouTube footage from 2003, and from Rumsfeld’s account. They provide a different set of scenes: Chicago, domestic spaces, contemporary art spaces, a relationship. The paintings are a different kind of work, and a different counter.
Stretches Topless reflects a desire to collapse diffuse meanings into a set of gestures—through an embrace of the already performative, to arrive at a series of more open, more openly entangled representations of an event.
Imagine this seen through the legs of a statue, as through the legs of someone more athletic: working with someone can be as much about watching them as anything else.