Chelsea Knight: Frame

Chelsea Knight explores the political — in her view, a dimension of life of which the essence is dissent rather than concord. In her projects she examines social control in general and the ideologies of authority in particular. Informed by theatricality (among other aspects, stage design, improvisational acting techniques, and spoken word) and language as a cognitive and emotional apparatus, she creates narrative-based videos, photographs, and participatory performances that focus on the current state of democracy — its principles, values, and aspirations. Topics that she has addressed include the U.S.-Iraq wars, notably military interrogation techniques; the psychological aspect of facilities of confinement; the recent rise of the far right, especially in the U.S. with the Tea Party phenomena; and feminist worldviews, in particular the condition of womanhood historically and today. Her subjects comprise professional dancers, military instructors, prison inmates, writers, herself, and her own parents in a mix of the personal and the public and of the imaginary and the real.

Frame is a piece in which a group of male construction workers assemble several wood pieces in order to create the basic skeleton of a house while speaking from feminist theory texts, as well as delivering their interpretation of the selected excerpts; this built structure remains in the gallery accommodating a plasma screen emitting a record of their action. Among the several passages that will be enacted are fragments of epoch-making feminist literature. For instance, from Simone de Beauvoir’s 1949 The Second Sex: “No one is more arrogant toward women, more aggressive or scornful, than the man who is anxious about his virility.” Or, as another example, from Hélène Cixous’ 1975 The Laugh of the Medusa: “You can’t talk about a female sexuality, uniform, homogeneous, classifiable into codes — any more than you can talk about one unconscious resembling another.” Knight analyses the connection between a traditional male form of labor, representations of the body as understood by feminism, and socially defined gender roles, bringing to light the structures of patriarchy that permeate contemporary society.

Chelsea Knight (b. 1976) lives and works in New York. She received her B.A. from Oberlin College and her M.F.A. from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She also studied at the Whitney Independent Study Program. She has had solo shows at venues such as Momenta Art, New York; Night Gallery, Los Angeles; Julius Caesar Gallery, Chicago; The University of Syracuse, Syracuse, NY; and the St. Louis Art Museum, St. Louis (upcoming).

Frame is a project of Cooperative Actions, an artist-led program created by Moving Theater to provide funding, administrative support and critical discourse to discipline-defying, frontier-crossing projects in the performing and visual arts. This program is made possible with a generous grant from Rockefeller Brothers Fund and by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council, and from the New York State Council on the Arts, celebrating 50 years of building strong, creative communities in New York State’s 62 counties.

This exhibition is curated by Miguel Amado, 2010-11 AIRspace curator-in-residence at the Abrons Arts Center.

Image: Chelsea Knight
Jouissance, 2011
Chromogenic print
4 x 6″
Courtesy of Jim Danneels