'Heads and Tales' by Heide Hatry at Elga Wimmer Gallery in New York [food art]
Currently on display at the Elga Wimmer PCC gallery in New York City is the exhibition 'Heads and Tales' by German artist Heide Hatry. The exhibition is composed of a series of photographic portraits that document sculptures made out of animal skin and body parts, using untreated pigskin, raw meat for the lips, and fresh pigs' eyes.
(You may remember Hatry as the curator of the show "Meat After Meat Joy", a group exhibition of contemporary artists who used meat in their work from October 2008.)
As part of the work, Hatry charged 27 prominent and emerging authors to select one of the images and essentially "give life" to her creations by writing a short story about their lives, including Rosanna Yamagiwa Alfaro, Roberta Allen, Jennifer Belle, Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, Svetlana Boym, Rebecca Brown, Mary Caponegro, Thalia Field, Lo Galluccio, Diana George, Thyrza Nichols Goodeve, Jessica Hagedorn, Elizabeth Hand, Heather Hartley, Joanna Howard, Katia Kapovich, Lydia Millet, Micaela Morrissette, Carol Novack, Julie Oakes, Barbara Purcell, Selah Saterstrom, Johannah Schmid, Iris Smyles, Luisa Valenzuela, Anna Wexler, and Can Xue. The general themes, as expected, are all a little dark.
The stories were then collected and published in a book, Heide Hatry: Heads and Tales (buy from Amazon), as a collaborative anthology.
Hatry, through her project, is functioning as taxidermist and life-giver, mortician and inventor. Hatry writes in her artist statement:
I didn’t make any demands on the contributors as to form or content. I simply wished that they would breathe life into these inert forms with their words. Since the violence that is often at the heart of women’s experience certainly pervades the images, I rather expected that the texts would to be related to pain, abuse, loneliness, madness, violence and death, etc., though I imagined that they could also be connected to, say, beauty, love, motherhood, ageing, plastic surgery and any number of other themes, perhaps exploring the pain and mortality that pervades those themes as well. In any case, the simulacra that inspired these literary creations, and which are, thus, life-creating in themselves, intend to invoke a play of subject and object, of life and death.
As part of the exhibit, there's a four-panel video projection that shows the process behind making the sculptures. It's a little... gory, but offers a remarkable view of the artist at work in her studio: handling eyeballs and slicing skin and flesh, a proper reminder that the photographs are indeed of sculptures made from real meat.
For two of the sculptures, she even invokes a form of crowd-sourcing, inviting the public to write stories that are as of yet "unwritten," asking people to write in a book or email her. One of those pieces requires the visitor to look through a small opening in a black curtain, to see a television screen a stop-motion video of one of the sculptures, moaning sexually, the audio of which fills the entire gallery:
Video from 'Heads and Tales' by Heide Hatry (Maybe NSFW)
Apparently the exhibit caused quite a stir when it showed in Boston, as there was a putrid rotting "corpse" in the gallery. Which fortunately (or unfortunately, depends) wasn't part of the show in New York — similar to the rotting American flag at the "Meat After Meat Joy" exhibit that eventually needed to be encased in glass because the extreme odor of decomposition filled the space.
The imperfect likenesses succeed in registering as sort of off, implausible, and false. It's akin to nightmarish house of wax, a ghastly horror movie that treads into arenas of mortality, memory, and as a final representation (obituary). At the same time, the photographs and the stories all feel a bit clinical, too far removed from the original sculptures, leaving you wanting more.
'Heads and Tales' runs from March 19 — April 25, 2009
Elga Wimmer PCC
526 West 26th Street, 3rd Floor
New York, NY 10001