Magazine article Artforum International

Liz Magic Laser: Various Small Fires

Magazine article Artforum International

Liz Magic Laser: Various Small Fires

Article excerpt

Liz Magic Laser


Over the past five years, Liz Magic Laser has become known for bringing into critical view--through performance, video, and, increasingly, installation and sculpture--the aesthetic codes of public discourse, both rhetorical and choreographic. By illuminating the intellectual and emotional manipulation at play in political speech, TV newscasting, and corporate-focus groupthink, she proposes a model of institutional critique that treats the performance of public discourse as the immaterial cornerstone of American democracy-cum-oligarchy.

The videos and sculptures featured in Laser's second Los Angeles solo show advanced a poetic strain of this project, which mines historical theatrical and literary works whose themes resonate with the artist's contemporary concerns. Earlier works sourced text from Rostand's Cyrano de Bergerac (Absolute Event, 2013) and Sartre's No Exit (In Camera, 2012); here, Dostoyevsky's protoexistentialist novella Notes from the Underground provided content to rub against the grain of the formulaic lecture style symptomatic of our neoliberal moment--the TED talk, in which innovations in technology, entertainment, and design are narrated as stories of personal transformation delivered in lean, highly seductive narrative arcs. In Laser's video installation The Thought Leader (all works 2015), ten-year-old actor Alex Ammerman delivers Dostoyevsky's derisive, anti-transformative ideas as a TED-esque talk, one that is received awkwardly by his small audience. The cognitive dissonance of the earnest, prepubescent orator delivering Dostoyevsky's dark judgments opens up a chasm between the talk's style and its content that enables us to consider them simultaneously.


Given the cottage industry that has sprung up around TED-style public speaking, an adjacent side gallery fittingly evoked a training room. The video My Mind Is My Own, which shows a group voice-coaching session led by eleven-year-old actor Ella Mare, played continuously in the company of two mirrored glass sculptures bearing diagrams inspired by one of Laser's long-standing inspirations, a nineteenthcentury manual of Francois Delsarte's theories of oration. Inflective Medallion, a large circular mirror, bears a diagram modeled after one of Delsarte's, which assigns certain affects to particular hand gestures. …

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