Friday, March 11, 2011

Janet Biggs at the Mint Museum

After all the confused pomo ramblings and posturings of the 1980s and ’90s, it comes as something of a relief that a number of artists in the millennial years have gone back to classic existential themes. Chief among them is Janet Biggs, whose work documents individuals obsessed with attaining extreme states of being, mainly through athletic pursuits. Deceptively simple, her videos mostly alternate this documentary footage with shots of musicians performing the music heard as the sound track. In Vanishing Point, 2009, Leslie Porterfield, the world record holder for motorbike speed, races away as the Addicts Rehabilitation Center Gospel Choir sings work partly composed by Biggs herself. Duet, 2010, switches between a young violinist and singer performing an aria from the opera Lakmé and footage of the pit crews changing tires on NASCAR vehicles in the middle of a race—particularly apt for the exhibition’s home city of Charlotte, North Carolina, perhaps better known as a center for race cars, banking, and commerce than for the arts. And though we don’t see the musicians in the otherworldly Airs Above the Ground, 2007, their contribution forms an integral part in this collaboration with fourteen-year-old underwater dancer Deanna Mary de Simone, featured in the video.

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