Magazine article Artforum International

Samara Golden

Magazine article Artforum International

Samara Golden

Article excerpt

MANY ARTISTS have used mirrors to reinforce the presence of viewers and spaces alike, creating a specular affirmation of site and bodily self. Fewer have grappled with the mirror's converse aspect, in which reflection, a la Lacan, jarringly severs the self's imago from its outward reality. And fewer still have engaged both facets as effectively as Samara Golden, whose work titillates and unnerves in equal, unflinching measure. Golden's reflections place the physicality of both installation and spectator in limbo, in spaces that are at once surreal and personal, dense with uncanny imagery conveyed via matter-of-fact constructions. Her installations subtly frustrate the desire for a resolved image, producing instead a fractured experience--sometimes quite literally, as in the Rape of the Mirror, 2011, where shattered glass covers the bedspread, and a video of the artist weeping plays on a loop.

Golden's Escheresque chambers conjure dizzying narratives, the stuff of anxious dreams. The LA-based artist's investigations into alternate realities--she has talked about a sixth dimension that might collapse our linear experiences of time and space into a single, psychologically dense plane--are abetted by the material obfuscations of the mirror, its conjuring of imaginative dissociation. Golden's use of reflective surfaces can also be interpreted as a harnessing of repetition to unearth submerged memories, as if the works themselves were demonstrating the proverbial distress of Freud's shell-shocked soldier, perpetually forced to revisit a nightmare whose trauma derives from the sleeper's belief that he missed--or failed to visually comprehend--the threat when it first appeared.

Golden's recent tour-de-force installation at moma psi in New York, curated by Mia Locks, showed such a fraught dreamspace. Installed in the museum's two-story Duplex Gallery and occupying its full height, with three levels open to view, The Flat Side of the Knife, 2014, was the artist's largest work to date. Most readily apparent at eye level from the atrium's balcony was a 1970s-style peach-hued bedroom with the floor dropped out. On closer inspection, the installation revealed an inverted teal frame adhered to the peach bed's underside. The upright and inverted beds were mounted to the museum's exposed-brick wall but seemed to hover above the recessed gallery, due in part to the silver Rmax insulation boards that were used to fabricate their armatures, platforms, and accompanying furniture. The aquamarine mise-en-scene surrounding the inverted bed (meant to evoke a hospital room, complete with handcrafted IV drips, per the artist's description) was visible if one looked down from the balcony, where it appeared as another bedroom within the reflected mirrored plates the artist used to tile the atrium's floor. Another room was positioned to appear "beneath" this green room in the reflection--a critical feat achieved by virtue of a bed mounted to the atrium's ceiling (and thus at the highest elevation of the three). This hidden setup created a third level that appeared deepest set within the mirrored floor. When viewed from above, the white room seemed to encompass the bottom floor of a sexily cascading split-level apartment. The vacant SoCal seaside realm (by way of a shoreline projected on moma psi's uppermost wall, visible within the lowest reflection through a sliding glass door) appeared as a respite from the sterile yet foreboding second level. But the spilled glass of red wine on a nearby table left the trace of histrionics.

The emotional states suggested within these different levels were as disorienting as their refracted constructions of space: a narrative that slid between meditative calm, frenetic anxiety, and depressive detachment. (Or was it the detachment of the dead?) Each level within the mirror was equally visible and inaccessible, as if the artist meant to demonstrate our ability to grasp the logic behind the visual phenomenon that produces looking-glass worlds, while hammering home the alt-space's unavailability to viewers limited to three dimensions. …

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