Of all the work I saw at the Frieze Fair LA, the video billboard by Lorna Simpson was by far my favorite. The piece features en pointe ballet dancers of color, sporting afros and golden uniforms, looking slightly bored and more than qualified, on what might be audition or practice floor of a traditional dance space. They chat with each other a little, and facing front, while intermittently, performing a perfect twirl. It made me think, immediately, about how much we lose of ourselves when we are forced to fit into other people’s expectations about how we should act; especially when that act is supposed to be one of personal expression. While not exactly a piece about representation, the piece questions what happens when histories of art and culture have rigid boundaries.
Set alongside the sidewalk on streets of the New York City set in the Paramount Lot, the video seemed as if it could be a billboard in the city; something that’s neither fashion, nor art, nor promotional – although touching on all three. It made me think that all cities have failed to properly bring forth the experience of everyone living there, and instead focus on only the aspirational part; regardless of whether there’s any joy left in it. Watching the work is light and pleasurable while delivering this punch, which made it all the more powerful – both in recognizing how especially people want to be entertained, but also how entertainment can be subversive and challenging.