As a maker, I cannot ask more of an artwork than that it rests well with itself. This work does. Using her body to generate the eight photographs comprising Oh! Oh! Oh!, Kelly Kaczynski’s physical exposure, yearning and discomfort work together to offset a viewer’s position from one of simple voyeur to one that receives a body presented with a considered sense of humility.
Kaczynski determined the positions she would hold to create the work for Oh! Oh! Oh! after imagery of various views of Charles Ray’s 1992 sculptural work Oh! Charley, Charley, Charley… The work shares the nature of humility found in Ray’s sculpture, yet functions independently of it. By creating her own photographic stage, Kacyznski’s Oh! Oh! Oh! provides access to a surprising intimacy, allowing us to enter a space that asks questions while empowering female form and our own individual readings of an image’s structural content. Oh! Oh! Oh! easily transcends its art historical context and moves on to other questions.
One cannot un-know the references or title or relationship of these images from either Charles Ray’s work nor the artist’s being held tenant by future three-dimensional work which will inherently be informed by these photographs. But, as objects/images/things this is not problematic. These artworks are generous. She bares herself. What can that mean? If we choose to be still with these eight visual propositions presented by Kaczynski, many paths can be taken – there are significances in mirrors’ reflections, suggesting the infinite and the temporal, the desire to look close and fall beneath the surface of the pool. Both the assumed poses and the structure posed to contain the body act as a set, considered, and with meaning. Feet are left dirty, mirrors are rough-edged and smeared. Like the distressed cousin of three-dimensional reflective spaces such as Kimsooja’s To Breathe: Bottari or Kusama’s mirrored rooms, this stage is not fully formed nor completely contained. Despite how much we and the figure continue to be held within these artworks, the possibility of infinite escape is implied—and herein lies their power. Humor is determined in a sense of expressed awkwardness-balance-gravity-singularity-discovery. Yet there, in that place, is desire. Desire not in a sexual or lustful way, but instead an apparent implicated desire for knowledge of the self.
These artworks remind me that descriptors such as painting/drawing/work on paper/photograph/sculpture/etc often carry the dead weight of their own accord in discussion. Perhaps it is more helpful to isolate the moments shared of each genre in order to directly attend to the work: repetition, examination, precarity. Potential permeates. Potential for tape to slip, a cord or edge to be displaced, even if only by an inch. Hung at a height meeting our torsos, the artist invites, perhaps demands, that while taking a stance equal to her, we may in a sense look down over, into and across her.
Whether coming to these images naively or with an understanding of their historical context, I desire to know the body and self that has been both performed and recorded in these moments: teetering, playful, studied, strong, capitular and alone. Even with the gaze of the camera, I want to be in the image. Despite the intensity of my looking, there is no reflection other than the artist’s. This is our nature—even when offered a clear view of another we are often looking for ourselves.
Kelly Kaczynski: Oh! Oh! Oh! was on view May 10 – June 7, 2015 at peregrineprogram, 3311 w carroll ave, suite #119. www.peregrineprogram.com