Allyson Clay’s artist’s book Loci includes five sets of instructions for performances accompanied by diagrams showing the spatial movements of the performer. In addition to the artist’s book, Clay made gouache, watercolor and pencil drawings for exhibition with the instructions. The subjects of Loci are ones that Clay engages throughout her practice and include conceptual art, writing, feminism, and identity. Loci refers to other conceptual artist’s books, notably Lawrence Weiner’s “Statements” from 1968 which, like Loci, describes projects. Also, Clay’s descriptions of performances echo Weiner’s famous Declaration of Intent from 1968 since her texts make it clear that the performances, while they embody potential, do not necessarily come to fruition. It is as if the book is enough. In fact, Clay elides the certainty of the performances even further by moving from straightforward description to writing that slips fugitively into the ludic quality of free verse poetry. Poetry is used to subvert the austerity of the conceptual artist’s book from inside it. With its references to kitchen utensils, among other things, the first text in Loci calls to mind Martha Rosler’s Semiotics of the Kitchen. Clay’s writing isn’t sardonic, but it is sharp and penetrating; the text gains momentum as words run into each other, separated by dozens of commas, wild and effulgent. It is astonishing how much exhilaration Clay infuses into the small pages of Loci. It is almost like there is a surplus of feeling that can barely be contained by the book. In the second text the description of the performance is woven with a description of real world events, namely an encounter between strangers in a city, and seems to blur the distinction between art and life. Similarly, in the third text, the straight description of the performance quickly collapses into a fragmented narrative describing people in urban spaces. Also in this text female authors are signified when the narrator takes books by Simone De Beauvoir, Gertrude Stein, and Virginia Woolf and transubstantiates them by soaking them in milk and kneading them like bread. The importance of women’s literature and literary discourses is transgressed by this performance but, ironically, reaffirmed because it is Clay who asserts her autonomy as an artist and a writer by creating this performance. Consistent with her interest in women in urban spaces, Clay’s “Two Walking Performances”, the final two instructions in Loci, are narratives in which female subjects in a city commit bold actions, such as throwing books out of a window, an action that Clay herself performs in “Heft”, and following a stranger through the city.
Material: heavy weight paper.
5.5 x 5 inches
Copyright is held by the author(s).
Member of collection