If Antonia Wright ever tires of being an artist and desires a career change, she might find success as a stuntwoman. In a number of videos in her show You Make Me Sick: I Love You at Spinello Projects in Miami, she has transformed her body into a projectile, hurling herself through glass, piles of books, and into oncoming cars. The feelings of danger and vulnerability are common themes in the exhibition, but Wright also craftily weaves elements of humor and whimsy into a show that negotiates the boundary between performance and video art.
In one of the standout works in the show, Wright documents herself being catapulted through a sheet of glass. Suddenly We Jumped (2014) consists of a two-channel video installation documenting the same performance with the use of super-slow motion. In the first video, Wright’s naked body appears gradually out of a black abyss; lying flat and baroquely lit, her body continues in flight toward the camera, and she suddenly—and effortlessly—crashes through a sheet of glass. Shards of glass splinter away, reminding the viewer of the danger involved in this act. Wright soon reaches the apex of her voyage, falling prostrate back from where she came. The slow motion of the video dramatizes the performance, heightening the tension before the impact and revealing every single crack in the glass on the exact moment she hits it. The second video in the installation focuses solely on her face rupturing the glass from a side angle—reiterating the violent nature of the act.
In another video, Wright again morphs her body into a projectile, this time repeatedly falling through the air. In So Far So Good (2014), Wright films herself in slow motion plunging feet-first in front of a bright blue sky. With this video, she removes all other context from the scene—the viewer has no idea of where or what height she’s falling from, or where or when she may be landing. Instead, in a ten-second clip on a seamless, infinite loop, Wright fluidly conflates beauty and peril; the cheery nature of the radiant blue sky provides a stark contrast to the vulnerability she assumes in the performance and the uncertainty brought about by the lack of context. With this work, Wright also brandishes her expertise with technological formats. Using the contemporary form of a very short video loop—a la Vine or animated GIFs—she creates a work that adopts the Modernist trope of repetition. Though her performative and conceptual practice takes center stage in much of her work, the formal aspect of the video, a body tracing a vertical trajectory over a gradient color-field background, is particularly remarkable.
Throughout the exhibition, Wright maintains this delicate balance of elegance and danger. In Be (2013), she performs T’ai Chi while being covered by thousands of bees. The graceful choreography of her T’ai Chi formations is undermined by the threat the bees pose. However, there is also something whimsical about such a performance; had Wright performed more violent gestures, it would have agitated the bees, leading to even greater danger. Interestingly, Wright and the bees peacefully coexist in such a performance. This whimsy is also evident in other works. In Drinks on Me (2010) Wright and her collaborator Ruben Millares violently throw balloons filled with red wine at each other, all while naked in a small room. The shrieks of terror, the red wine mimicking bloodstains, and the aggressive actions are belied by the work’s cheery title and absurd premise. Likewise, in Job Creation in a Bad Economy (2010), Wright and Millares hurl themselves through carefully stacked piles of books, only to laugh with each other after accomplishing each feat.
While the wide-ranging show spans six years of Wright’s work, the abstract qualities of her recent works—Suddenly We Jumped and So Far So Good, for instance—best demonstrate her negotiations of various dichotomies, including safety and vulnerability, as well as calmness and violence. But her explorations extend beyond these states, as she also comments on femininity and objectification. By launching herself through a sheet of glass, she cedes control of her body, rendering it as an object for destruction; yet in doing so, she obliterates notions of the fragility of femininity. Her engagement of technology advances these explorations, as she turns performances into spectacles for contemplation. Neither simply performances nor autonomous video projects, the works in this show offer a glimpse of Wright’s deft ability to conflate beauty and destruction.
You Make Me Sick: I Love You is on view at Spinello Projects through May 3, 2014.