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Jillian McDonald at Moti Hasson

Jillian Mcdonal "Vampire Hunting" 2007
Jillian McDonald, Vampire Hunting, 2007,
still from two-channel video
Waking the Dead
Jillian McDonald
Moti Hasson - 535 West 25th Street, New York NY
11 October - 10 November 10, 2007

In Zombie Loop, a two-channel video from 2006, Jillian McDonald positions the viewer between two projections on opposite walls. On one side we see a zombie pursuing the camera, on the other, its intended victim, fleeing. McDonald performs as both victim and zombie, noting: "Locating the viewers physically between the two roles positions them as both the pursued just out of reach of danger, and the pursuer hungering for its prey." A 2007 piece, with the same structure but a different genre — Vampire Hunting is on display, in a sense, in 'Waking the Dead,' McDonald's solo show currently at the Moti Hasson gallery — more on this later.

McDonald's work is fantastic. Her intelligent, sophisticated, and consistently well-executed interpolation of certain, concentrated conceits of representation spans video, photography and performance. Indeed, her work so effectively conjures enough theoretical familiars that it is easy to miss one of its more obviously delightful aspects: it's hilarious. The pieces currently on display at the Moti Hasson bear particular witness to the latter, while the stack of criticism on her website the former. (Of distinct quality is Sylvie Fortin's piece, quoted in the press release.) It is work that is simultaneously accessible and deeply provocative.

Following, then, it is admitted that McDonald has passed what might be termed 'the nomination phase' in any critical trajectory regarding her work; a given appraisal no longer requires an extended extolling of its value or relevance aimed at the establishment of historical, conceptual, and thus (now) commercial significance. Thus the (blog) critic (especially) — while still acting in fidelity towards the viscous impact of the work, finds themselves loosed a bit from this militant, nominative responsibility, and can reconsider, for the first time, the old images and actions as they are currently. That is as they are having just crossed that essentially relevant and absolutely epiphenomenal border separating 'emerging' from 'established.' Fine — nothing new here. But what is the fate of this newfound freedom when the work under consideration deals precisely with this border, albeit in an ostensibly different context? What is our responsibility when this spectacular meridian, hitherto having been relegated, structurally, to the realm of content, albeit in an expanded sense, now becomes suddenly, even determinately operative in the contextual encounter of said work's (re—)presentation?

And so it is that Jillian McDonald has a solo show at the Moti Hassan gallery on 25th street in WeCheHei.

Jillian McDonald "The Screaming" 2007
Jillian McDonald, "The Screaming," 2007, still from color video
This problem is hardly a new one, in fairness, and, before rendering the prevalent 'solution,' and relocating it, twisted and laughing, within this exhibition of McDonald's work itself, let us specify. We are faced with dual allegiances. There is first the fidelity to the work, which was formerly formally indistinguishable from our other, second fidelity, namely the one directed towards its work, the work's work, understood, once upon a time, maybe, as its content, now perhaps more often as what it accomplishes actively, ideally, via its location within the current distribution of the sensible. Thus, in the case of artists like McDonald — for whom this location is essentially at issue, is quite literally, and on every level, the issue itself — any re-location must entail a critical reconsideration, it is held, of some significance.

Perhaps the implied analogy is spurious; perhaps the distinct symmetry between the emerging/established line and the aforementioned meridian that McDonald and so many others take for their target is a misleading parallel, one that effaces the vast socio-material differences between the spheres in question. Thus the shift in the positioning of McDonald's work, from the Soap Factory in Minnesota, say, to 25th street, though certainly significant in some sense, ceases to be relevant, really, when juxtaposed against the tyrannical ubiquity of the horror genre, Billy Bob Thornton, and the like. Moreover it is this prevalence precisely that allows McDonald's detournement to function as such anywhere. Except, of course, when it doesn't — and here we return to the Zombie Loop/Vampire Hunting problematic evoked at the outset.

At the Hasson show, Vampire Hunting, is not projected on opposite walls, instead each loop is shown on two flatscreens, side by side, in close proximity to the other pieces around it. The effect is undeniable. It is tempting to stop here, allowing this reconfiguration to stand mutely as evidence for the inevitable arrival of the double bind indicated above. McDonald's position has changed, and her arrival has impacted immediately the character and quality of her critique, and, further, it is our fidelity to her former work, the work done by her work, formally, formerly, that demands this recognition from us. However, given that Vampire Hunting, is not mentioned in the Hasson press release, but is allowed to hang there, mangled and small, absent any official accounting of its appearance, perhaps we can go further. Perhaps we can declare that this odd conflagration, of official silence and shrunken art, to be the relocation itself; and not merely its function or symptom, but rather a winking, calculated condenscension by an artist who — and of this we are already, necessarily, certain — knows better.