Drawing on the writings of the late theorist Mark Fisher as a starting point for broader explorations of modern artistic practice and its possibilities in challenging the status quo of the global capitalist landscape, Dan Herschlein has dipped his toe into the world of curating, organizing an exhibition around the work David Altmejd, Adam Putnam, Elizabeth Jaeger, Gil Batle, and more at JTT. Using varied approaches and modes of creative making, including illustration, sculpture and even graphic novels, Herschlein’s show delves into the idea of just how modern practice might be able to work around “culturally sanctioned ideals” or to explore how the human mind may be able to sustain itself beyond these ideals.
The show begins with a quotation by Fisher, who describes “the weird” as a state of dissonance or even resistance: “it makes us feel that it should not exist, or at least that it should not exist here. Yet if the object or entity is here, then the categories which we have up until now used to make sense of the world cannot be valid. The weird thing is not wrong, after all: it is our conceptions that must be inadequate.”
The show itself rests heavily on these ideas, incorporating a range of imageries and iconographies that draw frequently on notions of mutation, fragmentation, disintegration and masquerade, often applied towards societal cues or social frameworks. Japanese manga artist Junji Ito, for instance, has included a series of his graphic novels, pieces that frequently depict a body at odds with society, and the horrifying, yet often comical juxtapositions between foreign bodies and the world that seeks to contain and mediate them. Sedrick Chisom’s paintings contain a similar mode, exploring forms suspended between a bodily familiarity and some sort of alien reimagining that still contains enough of the familiar to constantly subvert easy readings of its contents.
True to form, the works in Beside Myself position themselves as objects in opposition to an easily legibile body, presenting themselves as a shadow or perhaps a new imagining of the world that might produce them, the goal seemingly presented as a vision of a world where new bodies might exist, or new ways of living and existing might be imagined. Rather than escapism, however, Herschlein’s selections target a space where our societal moorings remain foregrounded, and the damage these frames render on the human form remain part of the equation.
“What if we could learn to value and identify the fractured ego, the complicated and confused, the body in bits and pieces?” Herschlein asks in his press release. As presented here, the answer seems to dwell on an imagined world where these fragments might be reconstituted. For, as Herschlein seems to imply, the first step towards building such a world, might be imagining it, envisioning it, and then acting to bring it to life.
The show closes August 3rd.
— D. Creahan
Beside Myself, Curated by Dan Herschlein [Exhibition Site]