We were sitting in the dark with digital artists Kiki Seror at Sean Kelly gallery watching Laurie Anderson’s new video. Laurie is one of Kiki’s idols.
The installation is titled "The Waters Reglitterized" after an essay Henry Miller wrote for his friend Emil Schnellock about painting, in 1949. Miller writes about doing one of his watercolors, "before going out to the cinema, I gave the smaller picture a bath. Astonishing effect -- everything took on a supernal hue, as at a dawn. Where the colors washed out completely it was not just white paper but a windswept space in which the vanished colors still spoke faintly."
Miller continues, "Before falling to sleep last night I ordered my subconscious mind to remember, on waking, the last thought in my head -- and it worked."
Similarly, Laurie Anderson sets out to wash and remember a dream she had on July 16, 2005. In the video of her dreamscape, we see the back of Laurie’s head under a red velvet curtain watching her brother photograph a woman’s corpse on the floor of a hotel lobby while a fox circles and sniffs the body. Crinoline and chicken wire frame the scene like sashes and wallpaper in a Vlaminck.
"The woman’s body is Duchamp’s Étant Donnés," Kiki Seror observed, "only she’s clothed out of respect."
"Yes, she’s extending her arm in the same way as Duchamp’s model," we answered.
"She’s holding a bloody cloth," Kiki continued, "So subtle, not like the gore of Sue de Beer. I also like the wheelchair."
"That’s not a wheelchair, it’s a red wagon tipped over on its side, and I’m not sure that’s really a fox -- it’s a dog." Laurie’s wall text describes the fox as "feeling fake."
"The man is snapping pictures like Andy Warhol," Kiki said.
"I feel that I’ve seen him somewhere before." We were drifting deeper into Laurie’s dream, trying to identify each object with growing uncertainty.
"The man is taking photos of Laurie’s face," Kiki continued, "Maybe that’s the piece, the artwork we’re not meant to see.
"I hope she turns around, I want to see Laurie’s face." Of course, she never did, and we never do.
We went home and sketched our memories of the video of Laurie’s recollections of her midsummer dream, then were compelled to return to Sean Kelly Gallery the next day and microscopically peruse every inch of the video in search of elusive, if nonexistent, meaning. Through a dark glass darkly, indeed.
Every viewing washed and deluminated this masterpiece, like one of Henry Miller’s watercolors, but our hunger for clues was unabated. For the last word, here’s Miller quoting an ancient axiom, "Don’t look for miracles, the miracle is you."
Laurie Anderson, "The Waters Reglitterized," Sept. 17-Oct. 22, 2005, at Sean Kelly Gallery, 528 West 29th Street, New York, N.Y. 10001.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).