Opening Wednesday, January 24th, from 6PM - 7:30PM
Join us for a conversation between Laura Letinsky and John Muse about time and art, moderated by Bill Brown
At the Co-op
About “Time’s Assignation”: The Polaroid, now anachronistic, is here conjoined with Laura Letinsky’s still life’s subject: the remains of appetites never entirely sated. This collection of black-and-white images was made in the studio from 1997 until 2008, when Type 55 film was discontinued. Akin to sketches, Letinsky’s work explores focus, composition, exposure, and most importantly, light itself, leading to her larger scale color works, for which she is best known. Small, slow, and raw, these pictures reveal a process of asking. This way or that? More or less? Now or then? Insistently beautiful in their decomposition, now stabilized, their high key tones slip into a white veil, with the darker tones metallized in hues of taupe, gold, and gunmetal gray. In their subject and materiality, these images bespeak of time’s rapid and unrelenting progression. Their black-and-white ravaged descriptions—coupled with their singularity and seriality—bespeak of the distance between having and wanting. These images are an homage to and lamentation of time’s passage as it is seemingly ensured and enshrined through the photograph’s exegesis.
About “Microdramas”: In “Microdramas,” John H. Muse argues that plays shorter than twenty minutes deserve sustained attention, and that brevity should be considered a distinct mode of theatrical practice. Focusing on artists for whom brevity became both a structural principle and a tool to investigate theater itself (August Strindberg, Maurice Maeterlinck, F. T. Marinetti, Samuel Beckett, Suzan-Lori Parks, and Caryl Churchill), the book explores four episodes in the history of very short theater, all characterized by the self-conscious embrace of brevity. The story moves from the birth of the modernist microdrama in French little theaters in the 1880s, to the explicit worship of speed in Italian Futurist synthetic theater, to Samuel Beckett’s often-misunderstood short plays, and finally to a range of contemporary playwrights whose long compilations of shorts offer a new take on momentary theater.
Subjecting short plays to extended scrutiny upends assumptions about brief or minimal art, and about theatrical experience. The book shows that short performances often demand greater attention from audiences than plays that unfold more predictably. Microdramas put pressure on preconceptions about which aspects of theater might be fundamental and about what might qualify as an event. In the process, they suggest answers to crucial questions about time, spectatorship, and significance.
About the authors: After studying photography first in Canada at the University of Manitoba, then at Yale University’s School of Art, Laura Letinsky formed her ideas and work through a perspective that affords, perhaps insists upon, a kind of attention to the act of looking and of picturing. Recent exhibitions include: Neither Natural nor Necessary, Mumbai Photography Festival, Mumbai, India; Objecta, Giacomo Guidi Arte Contemporanea, Rome, Italy; Producing Subjects, MIT, Cambridge, MA; Ill Form and Void Full, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL; and The Photographers’ Gallery, London; and Laura Letinsky: Still Life, Denver Art Museum. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Art Institute of Chicago, Hermes Collection, Microsoft Art Collection, Amon Carter Museum, The John Paul Getty Museum, The Musee de Beaux-Arts, Montreal, The Museum of Fine Art, Houston, and The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Yancey Richardson Gallery, New York represents her, and she shows with Galerie m Bochum in Bochum, Germany, and Joseph Carroll and Sons Gallery, Boston, MA.
John H. Muse is assistant professor in English and Theater & Performance Studies at University of Chicago, where he teaches modern and contemporary theater, modernist literature, and performance studies. His research focuses on work that tests theater’s perceived limits or that explores the imagined boundaries among theater and other arts: plays that resemble visual art, poems or novels in dramatic form, metatheater, and digital or otherwise virtual theater. His first book, “Microdramas: Crucibles for Theater and Time,” explores brevity in theater since the late nineteenth century and argues that very short plays reveal fundamental assumptions about theater’s limits and possibilities. His work has appeared in Theater Journal, Modern Drama, Theater, and The Journal of Dramatic Theory and Criticism.
About the moderator: Bill Brown is the Karla Scherer Distinguished Service Professor in American Culture at the University of Chicago and a coeditor of Critical Inquiry.