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by Tessa Laird
|Artists, in their never-ending quest to bring art to the world, periodically adopt superhero guises. Mike Kelley once appeared as specially gifted freak named "The Banana Man." In Vancouver in the 1970s, a certain "Mr. Peanut" ran for mayor. And the Mexican artist known as "Superbario" donned wrestling garb to organize housing rallies.
To this distinguished company add the Los Angeles-based artist Jennifer Moon, who this summer introduced her own superhero persona -- Mimesis. At the opening of her show at China Art Objects Gallery, Moon appeared as Mimesis, a miked-up superstar singing We Could Be in Utopia while being winched above the crowd on a hydraulic lift.
But the exhibition, titled "The Facility," also suggested that anyone can train to become a superhero -- that is, super-fit, super-bright and perfectly equipped to save the world. To fulfill this romantic adventure, Moon devised a regimen of workouts, philosophical readings and art-therapeutic activities.
"Facility" included a climbing wall, a climbing rope, a carpeted tube obstacle course and monkey-bars, which visitors to the show were welcomed to make use of. On the walls were exercise flowchart diagrams and a photomural of a beach (for enhanced meditative states). Sparring equipment was available to all comers (inspired by Fight Club, Moon instigated regular sparring matches in the gallery).
If visitors preferred a more delicate form of self-expression, a "drawing center" offered colored pencils, while a monitor played a selection of aerobics and martial arts videos, interspersed with Moon's own medley of documentary footage including crit sessions at Artcenter, and musical numbers.
Rainbow-colored walls invested the gallery with a romper-room atmosphere, where learning and participation were encouraged. A loft housed computers and a library of books ranging from Hannah Arendt to Philip K. Dick. Or, if you preferred, you could retire into a hammock with an X-Men comic.
On the occasion of the exhibition, Moon launched a CD titled 50 Weeks, the soundtrack of a forthcoming feature-length video (due for release at the end of the year). The songs are composed by Malik Gaines, except for the touching 3CE, which mixes Eric Satie's haunting Gnossienne 1 with a discussion of what Moon calls the "third communal entity."
Between the tracks are spoken dramatic interludes documenting "love problems" -- distractions on the road to superhero-stardom. Moon also plans to launch a book of manifestos called The Sure Way to Glory, elucidating her theories on issues such as free education and "expansive love."
Whether hokey irony or dewy-eyed idealism, Moon's work strikes a chord with its sheer vitality, challenging her viewers to try something new and think beyond the comfy confines of the white cube.
Jennifer Moon's "The Facility," on view at China Art Objects, July 15-Aug. 19, 2000, is currently showing at the Cincinnati Contemporary Center for the Arts, Sept. 9-Oct. 29, 2000. CDs are $10 each plus postage, available from Jennifer Moon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
TESSA LAIRD is a freelance art critic from New Zealand.