Imagine the shock of entering a gallery to find a room full of nude models. You'd either thank your lucky stars for Postmodernism or shrink from the vulgarity of it all, but both reactions would undoubtedly be accompanied by a certain... [more]
Imagine the shock of entering a gallery to find a room full of nude models. You'd either thank your lucky stars for Postmodernism or shrink from the vulgarity of it all, but both reactions would undoubtedly be accompanied by a certain amount of intrigue. So what happens when these flesh-and-blood models stay as still as celluloid, gazing lazily at the empty corners of the room? The experience becomes a tangle of attraction and repulsion.
Ask any of Manhattan's elite, who filed along the Guggenheim's sinuous halls to witness Vanessa Beecroft's 1996 "Show." What Beecroft presented were bodies, but not personalities; she constructed a detached fantasy of femininity encircled by a web of nothingness. It was a performance in which no one performed -- or a sculpture that used human flesh instead of stone or bronze.
The Italian-born, New York-based artist posits an art that obscures the idea of set media. By designating the human body as a museum piece, Beecroft subverts photography, painting, sculpture, and even video art. She undermines the power of the stage, calling the narrative force of language into question simply by eliminating it. However, Beecroft's criticism doesn't focus solely on the female. In her 1999 show, "US Navy," Beecroft selected a group of Navy SEALs to stand at various forms of attention, clad in their immaculate summer whites. With dadaist flare, Beecroft uses humanity as a function, not only a function of itself and society, but of art as well. If the toothbrush, ostensibly a tool for one task, can enter the museum, why can't a human expertly trained for one operation enter as well?
Ultimately, it is the viewer whose existence becomes scrutinized. For how do we, lolling around with our hands in our pockets, act the role of the engaged person? Beecroft suggests that we are just as programmed as those ever-posing models and the soldiers who salute endlessly once given the command. [show less]