Reckless Behavior 

Wednesday, Apr 12 2006

It’s almost an adage that if you give artists video cameras, they will inevitably either jerk off or hurt themselves. The Getty’s “Reckless Behavior” show, curated by Glenn Phillips, focuses on the latter, with projects showing artists doing very bad things to their bodies. In My Love Is an Anchor, Kate Gilmore stands before a yellow wall adorned with a large heart, struggling to free her foot from a bucket of hardening plaster. As she whales away with a hammer, Gilmore embodies love’s agony with delicious dark wit. Patty Chang’s wince-inducing Shaved (At a Loss) features the artist briskly scraping a razor dipped in Perrier across her most delicate bodily crevice — while blindfolded. There’s certainly a metaphor here, too, but it’s overwhelmed by the breathless hope that Chang will just stop before doing terrible damage. Elsewhere, Harrell Fletcher documents an array of scars and how they came to be in If I Wasn’t Me I’d Be You, while in the wet and nasty 10 Beers in 10 Minutes, by Mike Long and Jesse Sugarmann, the lanky Sugarmann unhappily downs — and then spews — 10 cans of Coors in rapid succession. And for what? In this video, the answer centers not on the artist and the lengths to which he’ll go to make his art, but on us and what we’ll cheerfully watch. This may be the first Getty event to tout “graphic depictions of violence, nudity and bodily functions,” and while it’s enticing just for that reason, “Reckless Behavior” also points out some of the differences between contemporary video and its precursors. Where earlier video artists such as Vito Acconci and Chris Burden hurt themselves in order to question the functions and politics of art, and feminists such as Joanne Jonas and Hannah Wilke used the body to question sexual codes, more recent work focuses on process and metaphor, and “Reckless Behavior” offers a terrific collection of solid — and funny, touching, extreme — examples. (The show is related to the “Aesthetics of Risk” conference on Saturday, April 29, at the Getty Center.) (Harold M. Williams Auditorium, Getty Center; Wed., April 19, 7:30 p.m. 310-440-7300.)

—Holly Willis

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