Sunday, September 19, 2010


Also this month's Project Wall Space: J. Thomas Pallas

Opening Friday October 22, from 6pm-10pm

October 22 - November 20

Transformation Opera is a sound and video project by Amelia Winger-Bearskin in which music generated from four different video works merge in the center of the gallery. Personal and Public figures are captured by video during moments of transformation, and then projected as slow moving loops. Sleepwalkers, Italian arias, trash TV, and tragic love ballads are warped to create the dreamlike musical environment.

Winger-Bearskin is an assistant professor of art at Vanderbilt, where she teaches video and performance art, as well as new and interactive media. Her undergraduate studies were in opera and performance art, her MFA is in time based media art (transmedia) from the University of Texas in Austin, 2008. She was in the group show Art in the Age of the Internet at the Chelsea Art Museum in 2007 and was a featured video and performance artist at Basel in Miami, Scope at the Lincoln Center and other art fairs consistently since 2007 as an artist at large for the perpetual art machine [PAM]. She has concentrated her live performance since 2009 on Asian Performance Art Festivals, performing live in the Philippines, South Korea and China as there is a unique support structure for performance that she wishes to study in hopes to bring similar structures in place in the USA.

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Transformation Opera, by Amelia Winger-Bearskin

Amelia Winger-Bearskin, Professor of Video and Performance Art

The ability of an appropriated image to maintain its original intent can be manipulated to create subtext with far more subtlety, complexity, and intelligence than a brand new creation.  The Transparencies/Transformation Opera exhibit combines two artist’s work, both of which contain original and appropriated images.  Artists Amelia Winger-Bearskin and Vesna Pavlovic pose questions of authorship, the difference between reality and illusion, and the post-modern wonderings of the authority of the audience.

Amelia Winger-Bearskin’s is a charismatic and powerful personality that doesn’t purposefully seek out performing, but it seems to follow her around anyway.  It comes easily to her, and in Transformation Opera, she recreates a space that is emblematic of a performer’s headspace, filled with grandiosity, foolishness, and dying dreams.   Four videos, all of which feature sound in some way, converge to fill the gallery space with the ambiance of perpetual performance.  Winger-Bearskin uses her own performances twinned with appropriated footage of (former) starlets Mia Farrow and Lindsay Lohan against a confluence of operatic vocals, shoe gaze, and honky-tonk.

In “ambienTTransformation,” Winger-Bearskin uses the turn of phrase for being a hyper-productive artist literally, as she unwittingly made a performance piece in her sleep.  Actually sleepwalking throughout the entire piece and recording herself the whole way through, the video perfectly captures the restless energy associated with performers between performances.   In her sleep the artist smears honey on her face and covers it with $150-worth of gold leaf.    She is asleep, and yet the video is perfectly shot, and it is not necessary to understand the context of its creation to appreciate the appeal of the artist’s expressionless face being covered in gold.  “I could try my very hardest to be earnest,” Winger-Bearskin says, dreaming of all the different ways she could manipulate her face, calling on her relationship with her young son to inspire authentic concern in a dreaming state of nonsensical logic. The childlike, diva-esque behavior of an artist performing in front of a camera is echoed in other pieces in the exhibit, like Mia Farrow’s over-the-top starvation opera, and in Lindsay Lohan’s Morrisey-tinged anguish.

In “Transformation Opera,” she spontaneously performs with the house band at Second Fiddle, one of the more identifiable honky-towns in Downtown Nashville.  Succeeded by a piece that shows Lindsay Lohan in a tasteful, respectful, terribly sad analysis of her recent jail-sentencing, Winger-Bearskin’s light-hearted rendition of Willie Nelson’s outlaw country ballad “Crazy” reminds you that fame is good luck and bad luck, and opportunities taken or squandered.

“The Transformation of Lindsay Lohan” is a series of stills from YouTube, taken seconds before and as the actress hears her sentence – 90 days in jail.  Blond hair and beautiful bone structure collapse as her face falls and her head drops, all as the first few measures of Morrisey’s “Seasick, Yet Still Docked” play.  For a performer, the moments between being free and imprisoned carry the additional weight of transforming an identity.  Lohan’s life is a well-known spectacle.  In jail, she will be without audience, and what is a performer when she is not performing?

As so many videos are being played at once, there exists an inability to view each one individually. Victor Turner called liminality “the state of being betwixt and between.”  Winger-Bearskin’s videos capture this moment - between sleep and waking (“ambienTTransformation”), between audience and performer (“Transformation Opera”), between celebrity and prisoner (“The Transformation of Lindsay Lohan”) – and, through the addition of sound and the careful proximity between videos and gallery space, creates a suspended liminality among her audience.  It is at once unsettling and comforting -- a familiar feeling of unrest.

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