Monday, March 11, 2013

"Reverse Engineering" by Micol Hebron @ Jancar Gallery

This weekend I visited my friends Landon and Katie, who recently moved to Echo Park in LA.  On Saturday night, we went to Chinatown for an art opening at Jancar Gallery.  We went mainly because Katie was a part of a performance piece involving several women standing in the gallery and smiling (without talking) for three hours.

The art show was called "Reverse Engineering" and featured work by Micol Hebron.  In addition to the silent, smiling women, the show featured video screens and projections exploring gender roles and expectations of women.  

In her artist's statement, Hebron offered her services to help other female artists.  The impression I got was that, due to various social pressures and expectations, it is hard to be a working female artist.  To paraphrase Rosie the Riveter, "We've come a long way, baby, but we've got a long way to go."

When Landon and I walked into the gallery, the vibe was weird, borderline uncomfortable.  Here were all these stationary women, wearing big fake smiles.  The people attending the exhibit didn't talk much; mostly they looked at the video screens and occasionally made awkward, wordless eye contact with the women.

As a performance piece, it was successful.  In disrupting normal human social interaction, the show forced the viewer to reflect both on his/her place in this space.  As a viewer, I was unsure how to interact with the women.  It was awkward and jarring, and I imagine that was the artist's intention.  Some of the silent, smiling women were clearly uncomfortable themselves.  Everyone was uncomfortable, and that was the point, I think.

In a room at the back of the gallery was a chair and a video being projected on a screen.  The video showed the artist crying.

The show clearly came from a feminist perspective.  For a long time growing up, I had sort of a negative impression of feminism or feminists.  But then I took a Women's Studies course in college and learned that feminism is basically just the belief in equal rights for men and women.  It was then that I realized that, not only do I respect feminists, but I am one myself.

After the show, we went to eat at the famous Foo Chow restaurant in Chinatown, where Jackie Chan filmed his "bestseller movie" Rush Hour (see bottom of menu).

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