Love Trips-World Class Boxing. November 2012
Mayer’s current exhibition at World Class Boxing is titled Love Trips: a Triptych on Love. It includes a sculpture, a handwritten love spell, and a photographic still from the centerpiece of the show, Everyone’s Been Lost at Sea, a new installation in the form of a triptych of three distinct videos in which Mayer appears. The center video, endless lava, I wish for, depicts rotoscoped video footage of the artist (who practices aerial acrobatics) twirling furiously above a slightly crude video of a volcano. The volcano spews increasing amounts of red lava, an enlarged phallus thrusting toward the diminutive Mayer, who appears to spin upon the vapors of the explosions. Although an obviously dangerous feat, the image has the mock-dangerous/actually-funny feel of cartoons, where the protagonist survives repeated mishaps without a scratch. The title, a play on the cliché of “endless love,” hints at the lighthearted tone of the work.
Temporarily yours, another swipe at the language of romance, is the title of the video on the left. In contrast to the caricature of endless lava, I wish for, this video zooms in on Mayer in bed. It opens with a close-up of her sucking her fingers. Next is a view of someone’s hands running through her hair, and then another of her kissing someone’s body. The cinematic love scenes, familiar from so many movies, continue as we gradually realize that the Mayer is alone, kissing her own limbs, revealing love marks on her skin as she carouses in bed. Finally, the camera pulls away, and she stares at us as she continues caressing herself. She truly only belongs to anyone until she breaks the fantasy.
The mysteriously titled H.I.L.M.D.A. flanks endless lava…on the right. The video begins with a view of sand and the sound of footsteps as we “approach” Mayer from behind. She’s standing in the ocean, nude except for jewels and a sarong. She turns to us with a smile, her arms outstretched as in a dance. The video next cuts to another image of her, facing us, all white and covered below the waist by white fabric, looking like the famous Venus de Milo in the Louvre Museum. With evident effort, she begins to tug at her left arm, blood spurting as she eventually pulls it off. She then turns to her right arm and starts chewing it, more blood shed as it falls off. Finally, she looks directly at the viewer with a look of satisfaction and pride. Now, she really looks like the familiar icon of female beauty, except for all that blood.
The Venus de Milo was discovered in pieces in 1820 on the Aegean island of Melos, and she is identified as Venus the Roman goddess of love and beauty, who was born of the sea. According to the website of the Louvre Museum, which dates the statue from around 100 BC, “And with her, Greek art gave birth to all Western art’s female nudes.” 3 The statue indeed became the feminine ideal with many artists producing homage to her, including the French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917), who wrote a book where he noted “you belong to all of us, to the universe…mutilated, you remain entire to their eyes.” 4
Mayer’s Venus confronts us directly with this mutilation, throwing back at us the antiseptic, white marble version made flesh by her and all too human. She looks straight at us with pride as she gives us what we want, implicating us in the construction of this gruesome paradigm. Mayer further upends conventions of desire in Temporarily Yours, playing with our expectations of yet another tasteful love scene among the sheets with delicate close-ups until we see the hickeys and realize that they are self-administered.
Mayer’s performances bring to mind the works of feminist artists of the 1970s, notably Eleanor Antin and Hannah Wilke. In Carving: A Traditional Sculpture (1972), Antin alludes to the classical archetype in the title of this photographic piece, in which she documents her weight loss over a 36-day period, presenting her shrinking naked body in 144 photographs. As if he were speaking of Mayer’s Venus, Howard Fox writes of this earlier work, “The life corollary is that by taking away what is superfluous, an artful ideal can be found.”5 Wilke’s S.O.S Starification Objects Series (1974-82) elicits the same frustration of desire as Mayer’s Temporarily Yours, as Wilke presents her attractive naked self, striking poses while covered with wound-like chewing gum sculptures.
While the black and white, straightforward photographic modes of Antin and Wilke’s works reflect the conceptual art strategies of the time, Mayer’s vivid and humorous depictions mirror the conventions of television and music videos. Mayer’s I Am Your Grandma (2010), a message to her future offspring in which she dons various, often bizarre, guises to a tune by the band ANR, is a YouTube smash with over a million hits and numerous spoofs and re-mixes. It’s particular mix of self-performance, the grotesque, and embrace of mass media formats is common to most of Mayer’s work, an irresistible combination that reflects our era of multi-dimensional identities and entertainments.