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Journeys through virtual landscapes form the heart of Lauren Klotzman’s current show, expressing her continuing search through celebrity archives for lost affinities, failed ideals, and false cultures.
Alongside this, Klotzman foregrounds their ongoing exploration into the nature of memory conveyed through intimations of archaeology and anthropology, highlighting the way that we rely on objects to locate our relationship to the past. Sculpture, video, and mixed media installation express the material form that memory takes.
Acting as an archetype and exemplar for the first generation raised on the internet, Lauren Klotzman’s theoretical meanderings through media archeologies of the ’90s and ’00s express prescient points regarding American gendered identities and the effects of computer technology on culture at large. Via the internet, memory is mediated, and biography becomes a series of catch phrases and memes.
It’s very expensive to be me; It’s terrible the things I have to do to be me explores the dark realities of Contemporary Life and the convoluted systems of false idols, twisted ideals, and perverse role models that arise from tabloid culture.
The exhibition uses Anna Nicole Smith as a lens through which the trials of mass attention and prescribed gender are explored. In Smith’s case, those trials were often literal/concrete, and the exhibition’s title is lifted from her testimony in the U.S. Supreme Court case of Marshall v. Marshall.
The historical impulse to make sacred what is lost becomes all the more urgent when we consider contemporary technologies and online cultures. Klotzman encases not-yet-vanished cultures in the form of sham relics or false monuments in order to both recognize their historical value and to critique contemporary amnesia. In her works, ephemeral cultures meet the solidity of constructed artifact.
Klotzman’s version of archaeology evokes an historical gaze on these contemporary cultural objects, Klotzman changes the meaning of both and raises the question of what exactly we are remembering when we visit a museum, when we look at a memorial, or when we click on a broken weblink.
In the monumental sculpture Untitled (Mexia//Aruba Pt. 1), oversized inflatable palm trees thrust outward from a heaping mound of cow manure which has been piled upon a white marble plinth. Here, we see the artist compartmentalizes and conflate biographies, figuring herself through an affinity with the biography of Smith, identifying with narrative elements of humble beginnings and escapist tendencies between humble Texan beginnings and the auspices of celebrity trappings.
Alternatively, it’s companion piece Untitled (Mexia//Aruba Pt. 2) acts as a portrait of Smith’s ultimate downfall, in which hypodermic needles containing Methadone and Vitamin B12 are embedded within a (funerary) mound of sand and pulverized benzodiazapenes, over which Chloral Hydrate has been poured. This sculpture recreates the results of Smith’s autopsy report, which states that her death (neither a homicide, suicide, nor by natural causes) was the complex result of a drug overdose of Chloral Hydrate in combination with four benzodiazapenes (Klonopin, Ativan, Serax, Valium); additionally, signs of Methadone, intramuscular B12, HGH, Benadryl, and Topamax use were found.
In Untitled (Under Pressure), a virtual voyeur/flaneur undertakes an evocative journey through the uncanny spaces of television footage transposed into online formats. In a re-visioning of these “news” clips/soundbites, Klotzman radically changes the role of the passive viewer, as the goals of media portrayal give way to a meditation on the “news” as both portrait landscape. Klotzman confronts both the danger of passively aestheticizing the “wreckage” of the past and the romantic fixation on death as a placeholder for meaning. As the sounds of talking heads drift through nostalgic recollections of a culture’s fragmented past, Klotzman takes us through the gleaming surfaces of memory to the far edge of the real.
With it’s decrescendo of combined audio/video soundscape, Klotzman’s latest film engages with the plethora of desires found in online archives of televised celebrity. Captivating as much as unsettling, the film immerses us in the densely layered world of celebrity fetishists. Rather than reducing the fetish to a point of novelty, Klotzman delves fully into the tantalizing and mysterious nature of the obsession.
Lauren Klotzman (b. 1987, Victoria TX) is an artist, curator, and writer. She is trained in Studio Practices, Art History, Performance Studies and Poetics at Sarah Lawrence College, Naropa University, and Rhode Island School of Design. A former resident of Houston, Marfa, and New York, she presently lives and works in Austin TX.