13 September to 27 October 2012
The word “thing” has a storied etymology. Beyond its primary nominal definition as a material object, “thing” initially referred to a public meeting or assembly, and “to thing” was to argue for or against the issue at hand within this arena. “Thing” can also refer to a matter of business, an event, an issue, an interest, or a preoccupation—ultimately, it behaves as an empty signifier just as much as it connotes specificity. WE THING, Krista Buecking’s latest project, uses this multivalenced and contradictory definition as a starting point for her ongoing examination of social and economic systems, particularly in relation to current conditions in North America. Buecking suggests that our prevailing system is a smoke screen infected by neoliberal values, and it promises more than it can deliver. She locates the kernel of this alienation within lifestyle marketing and the Human Potential Movement—a self-styled category of motivational seminars and affiliated literature aimed at self-actualization and personal advancement. As she writes, “What does it mean to grow up having been told you can be anything you want and then have reality be something different?” Using an assembled collection of props and set pieces distilled from consumerist and self-help vocabularies, WE THING attempts to reify this intangible system and illustrate its fracture by imagining what a group therapy session with (or for) its artifacts might look like. In her videotaped performances, Buecking attempts to connect or merge with these totems, such as exploring or penetrating the interior of a giant Gap shopping bag, caressing the slick surfaces of a Platonic tetrahedron, or occupying them as furniture, spellbound under the glare of a nearby television. Buecking’s interactions with these objects highlight their insincerity and skew their ability to seduce. The carpeted display furniture that she performs on—reminiscent of what you might find on a showroom floor or on The Price Is Right—emphasize that the thing she is truly selling (in pantomime) is not only a material object but also an idea or a dream.