Elisabeth Subrin

Her Complusion to Repeat

20-year Artist retrospective at Sue Scott Gallery, New York
Film, Video, Installation, Photography
25-page catalogue with essay by Ed Halter
Documentation here.

"Subrin presents the act of discerning between history and subjectivity as a necessary yet inherently impossible task, a project we are asked to undertake despite the knowledge that our findings will always be incomplete. Engaging with stories of women’s lives, Subrin embraces the contradictions between the empirical needs of feminist historiography and the radical unsurety of postmodern thinking."

"Today, some fifty years removed from Andy Warhol's deployment of fashion and shoe advertisements and thirty years since the flowering of the Pictures generation, the sheer quantity of images circulating in the world has normalized appropriation, and the dispersion of its intent has largely depoliticized it. Remaking (or outright stealing) doesn't register as the challenge to the status quo it used to.

These shifts notwithstanding, Elisabeth Subrin has done her part to uphold appropriation's politicized, feminist legacy. Since the late 1980s, her films and videos have used appropriative strategies to deconstruct authoritarian voices. In several such pieces that were included in her recent small-scale retrospective at Sue Scott Gallery, along with a selection of stills from the videos on view, Subrin, characteristically, took on autocratic history telling by remaking histories through the exposure or reconstruction of minor events. It was surprising to find that in her newest video, that voice is her own. Lost Tribes and Promised Lands, 2001-10, is a split-screen projection: half footage that Subrin shot during a midday walk around her Williamsburg, Brooklyn, neighborhood about a month after 9/11, half Subrin's attempt to re-create the same walk eight years later, when the ubiquitous flags and crummy delis seen in the left-hand screen had largely given way to boutiques and cafés. Gentrification is an old New York story, and the replacement of the iconography of knee-jerk patriotism by that of a neighborhood's architectual and cultural makeover isn't itself exceptional. But providing narrative content per se is rarely Subrin's intent. What always makes her work tick is how it interrogates authorship. Re-creation seen here is a ruse, blockaded as it is by political shifts, real estate development, or just the banal march history."
—Nick Stillman, ARTFORUM

A Time Out NY and The New York Times Critic's Pick.

Elisabeth Subrin: Her Compulsion to Repeat, Sue Scott Gallery, New York