Hammer Projects: My Barbarian

Hammer Projects: My Barbarian

My Barbarian is a Los Angeles-based performance collective founded in 2000 by Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon, and Alexandro Segade. Their video installation The Night Epi$ode (2010) explores the genre of science fiction, linking narratives related to the economic collapse with supernatural occurrences. Inspired by episodic television shows like Rod Serling’s Night Gallery, the three performers appear in six short videos that view the current financial crisis through the tropes of that genre. In The Night Epi$ode, 2010, a woman starts a romance with a supernatural being after losing her job, a man turns to witch doctors when his insurance won’t cover his medical condition, and a trio of curators trapped in a board room argue over the politics of art. Combining science fiction with elements of French existentialism and absurdist dialogue, My Barbarian’s lively performative videos comprise a multi-part installation. Organized by Hammer senior curator Anne Ellegood, Hammer Projects: My Barbarian is the group’s first solo museum exhibition.

Hammer Projects: My Barbarian. Installation view at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles. October 23, 2010-January 23, 2011. Photo by Brian Forrest.

Biography

My Barbarian is a Los Angeles-based performance collective founded in 2000 by Malik Gaines, Jade Gordon and Alexandro Segade. My Barbarian has performed and exhibited at venues such as the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Hammer Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, and LAXART in Los Angeles, California; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New Museum, and Studio Museum in New York; and at numerous venues internationally including The Power Plant, Toronto, Canada; De Appel, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; Galleria Civica, Trento, Italy; and Townhouse Gallery in Cairo, Egypt. Hammer Projects: My Barbarian is the group’s first solo museum exhibition.

Essay

In the pilot episode of the group of videos that make up My Barbarian’s The Night Epi$ode, the three protagonists—curators who are locked in a room reviewing slides of artworks in order to select works for an exhibition—interrupt their discussion of what constitutes the most interesting and original art to ask: “Are you frightened by an unexpected knock at the door?” “Does your heart pound when you get mail from the government?” “Are you hiding something?” Tense, anxious, and weary, these three characters embody the current national, if not global, malaise that has resulted largely from the recent economic collapse and lingering recession and the innumerable repercussions of this state of intense instability.

The news lately has been full of strange stories linked to the recession: A nurse in Wisconsin was laid off while assisting during a surgery. An employee of a restaurant in Florida was ridiculed and then dismissed from his job after placing a slice of tomato on top of the meat rather than directly on the bread. Airlines have started charging for pillows and blankets, and some have even considered a fee to use the restroom. Condom sales are up as couples forsake nights on the town in favor of intimate dates at home while nonetheless trying to avoid expanding their families. Simultaneously, and ironically, rates of domestic violence are on the rise. City morgues are grappling with an increase in unclaimed bodies, as families cannot afford to bury their dead. While the general trends are the predictable outcome of a slowed economy, many of the related anecdotes sprinkled throughout the daily news are borderline surreal—like fantastical horror stories or the petty banalities of a soap opera. This confluence of real life and dreamlike parody informs The Night Epi$ode, which plays with the genre of science fiction television series by linking narratives related to the economic collapse with bizarre occurrences. 

 

The Night Epi$ode 

 The Night Epi$ode

 The Night Epi$ode 


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Hammer Projects is made possible with major gifts from Susan Bay Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.

Additional generous support is provided by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission; Good Works Foundation and Laura Donnelley; L A Art House Foundation; Kayne Foundation—Ric & Suzanne Kayne and Jenni, Maggie & Saree; the Department of Cultural Affairs, City of Los Angeles; and the David Teiger Curatorial Travel Fund.