Fables of the Reconstruction
Denise Prince reveals her Tractatus 7.
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
11:45AM, Mon. Sep. 15, 2014
Sometimes the reality of the flesh is more intense than fantasy can bear.
1. In the trailer for the Hollywood version of Denise Prince's Tractatus 7, the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein is seen in close-up profile. He says: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent." The camera cuts from Wittgenstein to Prince, who sits in opposing profile. She says: "A picture is worth a thousand words." The camera pulls back slowly (within the constraints of trailer-time) and freezes in a medium shot, framing the artist and the philosopher in a white room. The scene bursts into flame, obliterating the image, leaving flakes of ash floating within a black void. The soundtrack begins a haunting composition for solo erhu as the titles roll.
Fact: There is no Hollywood version, and therefore no trailer, of Denise Prince's Tractatus 7.
2. In a soaring and still-under-construction gallery, a warehouse-sized space of concrete and glass and steel located within University Park – right off the I-35 feeder road, over where Concordia used to be – Denise Prince has arranged the enormous prints of her Tractatus 7. This is a project in which the artist has enlisted people who've experienced extreme physical trauma – whether originating in the womb or from some calamity (war, fire, disease) met later in life – and these people, rendered physically unique through violent scarring or deterioration or other deformities, have re-enacted scenes from a high-fashion Missoni catalog. Which Prince has photographed perfectly.
Fact: The sight of these photos, the cognitive dissonance they inspire, the intense juxtaposition of fantasy and reality in their fabricated tableaux of compromised meat and chi-chi merchandise … these images will stay with you for a long time.
I had a lot of questions to ask the artist. I was going to include an interview with this review, this brief promotion of the show, and my questions would've touched on what I figured are many salient points, would have unraveled a few technical mysteries as well as more philosophical underpi – but, well, it turns out that such an interview already exists. And all my questions were answered in full.
If you haven't already clicked that final link above, go ahead and do it now.
All I have to add is: See this show. It's open to the public on Sundays, from 11am to 6pm, through September 27. It's beautiful; it's unnerving; it's an important document and commentary on the human condition, on the mortality of all this meat and the things we do to distract ourselves from what's real.