Very Long Fingers is a three-person exhibition that features Julien Bismuth, Tomasz Kowalski, and Autumn Ramsey. The figure is central to this exhibition. In Bismuth’s absurdist videos, a spectrum of makeup is applied to an actress; and two clowns play with each other’s traditional maquillage. With each variation in appearance, the rules of representation are reset; the figure devolves into a system, which is continually improvised. Kowalski’s characters – bent into an ampersand, poised to be bisected by a clapperboard, or filled with ecstatic psychedelia and blood-and-guts – are similarly threatened by dreamlike distortions, hilariously beleaguered by instruments of language, film, or the ink and gouache with which they were made. Ramsey’s work, which often depicts anthropomorphic creatures, plays with logic and nonsense. Seemingly innocuous, sometimes ridiculous, her work belongs to the carnal. Her images, by turns erotic and cerebral, are supported and subverted by a playfulness of form.
The figure fluctuates in Very Long Fingers. It appears in all three artists’ work, like it has appeared and appeared again, as the subject of its epoch, an actor in its slapstick, the site of its politics, and ever malleable to the demands and wishes of its handler. History has registered doubt, humor, and uncertainty, pathos, politics, and tragedy through the figure – it never disappeared from sight. It is perhaps for this reason, however, that the figure belongs more to folklore than to history: in the moment when our pictures are most clear, we admit of the irresolvable mystery built into our dominant systems of representation. In Very Long Fingers, the figure has attracted many identities: a cautious bird, a gaunt writer, an innocently exposed cat, a discombobulated Cyclops, or a pathetic clown. Animals, artists, and the fool – what humane metaphors for the otherness of inquiry and autobiography. Very Long Fingers arouses a dilemma; intellectual, erotic, absurd, and historic, about language, about allegories, about things funny, old, and beautiful.