For a dozen years Kiki Seror has tried to preserve the static and chatter of sexual life in artistic amber. She began in a West Side warehouse crammed with communications equipment, where she monitored internet sexual chat rooms around the clock like a one-woman National Sexuality Agency. She then transformed snippets of sex talk into 3D textual arabesques framed in her signature light boxes: she had taken the banal signifiers of Joseph Kosuth and sex-rated them from a female perspective.
Seror exhibited at the Freud homestead in Vienna and then spent four years in Amsterdam, where a romance with a ship’s captain, often at sea, gave her the leisure to interview sex workers in the small storefront boxes where they showed their wares. The hours of transcripts of these explicit confessions rival Anais Nin’s diaries as a meticulously detailed and psychologically overwhelming chronicle of bound lust.
Luckily for Kiki, there were always collectors ready to buy the opaque, abstracted artworks she created from her dialogues and thus further fund her research, for Seror remained convinced that the motifs of carnality were the stuff that made the world.
This lifetime of horny pursuit culminates in the stately rooms she has now elaborated at Chelsea’s I-20 gallery. Black and white Mylar wallpaper repeats six of the 20 designs Seror has constructed from maquettes of women’s body parts. They open and undulate in pulsating rhythm, like Escher’s birds in flight or Bach fugues.
Catherine wheels (torture devices) of ladies’ legs hang like chandeliers, while small resin sculptures of vaginas, the size of hand irons, glow on nearby shelves. On a black back wall are recreations of two 19th-century medical drawings Kiki inherited from her grandfather: a profile of a man’s head and a frontal view of a naked woman. These are translated into lenticular screens and seem backlit in pinks and blues, creating a veined landscape of desire.
The whole effect of the installation is static and unnerving, a room pregnant with the remnants of lifeless lust, fire reduced to patterned dust. It is Seror’s aim to replicate these rooms in homes and museums around the world. Should we move beyond our sex-obsessed age, her lustspace will become a kind of Victoriana of the flesh, an empty jewel of silent longing.
Kiki Seror, "Aiora," Dec. 11, 2008-Jan. 24, 2009, at I-20, 557 West 23rd Street, New York, N.Y. 10011
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).