February 27–April 12, 2014
8 is a graphically curvaceous number. Figure 8 — also known as “hourglass” — is a female body type.
And, 8 is a pointedly specific number of women even as it is seemingly inaccurate. I count more than 8 women, more than 8 types, in this exhibition. Who — what — counts? How? And, who decides? “Woman” is always a trope.
8 Women is not a Schorr retrospective, but incorporates work from 1996 to today. Think of a figure-8 knot — a tying together of and turning back on Schorr’s oeuvre. Schorr appropriates her own (sometimes appropriated) fashion and advertising images and restages them in visual conversation with each other and with later work. Schorr returns to questions of female representation and agency that have long animated her work, and turns towards related questions of appropriation, performance and self-portraiture.
8 Women is an appropriative title: 8 Women is a 2002 French film by director François Ozon, which is, in turn, based on the 1958 play Huit Femmes by Robert Thomas. Schorr’s title also reference’s Frederico Fellini’s 8 ½ (1963) and Robert Altman’s 3 Women (1977). Appropriation and performance proliferate. Counting is futile; the images are always moving.
8 Women features not only the subjectivities and desires of the women pictured, but also those of the artist. As Schorr selects and arranges some of “her” women, she creates a large and appropriately fragmentary self-portrait. But, Schorr is more than figuratively present: she also literally appears in her own body (of work) — see, for example, Self-Portrait (Mimic), 1996. Occupying the roles of artist and model, Schorr asserts that the women in her photographs, too, are also both at once: not passive art objects but collaborators in the process of creation.
8, as a figure, is an example of reflection — or mirror — symmetry. While the disparate women here do not mirror each other, each is reflected in others as a result of curatorial decisions. The reflective surfaces of frames and floors offer Schorr another means of tying the exhibition together and placing the images in dialogue with each other. As I gaze at the model in Picture for Women (2010), I see the model in Boots, Chair, Hair (1998) reflected in her red skirt; similar reflections occur throughout the exhibit — one woman’s body appearing literally within another’s, often on or near the pelvic region, with all accompanying connotations of touch, desire, consumption.
8 Women? How many images I see reflected in any other frame depends on my angle of vision, and on the presence of other gallery-goers who might usurp the reflections and occupy the frames themselves. I experience the exhibition as performance art, made and re-made as visitors come, move and go. Spectators are models are actors. A close look at the bottom left-hand corner of N.K. (2013), an ink sketch of Nicole Kidman in a scene from Birth (2004), reveals tiny handwriting under a cut-out magazine shoulder that reads “Act I Scene I Prelude.” The performance is always about to begin. Again.
8 includes me. Some of Schorr’s women look directly at me, inviting me to return their gaze; I respond with particular pleasure to the seductive look, tripartite structure, and meta nature of the double print collage Photo of Keltie Ferris (2006-2013). The neighbouring photo, Your Waist (2014), shows the sole faceless figure in the exhibition. Its title seems an intimate, direct address by Schorr to her photographic subject; it is also, more ambiguously, a direct address to me, who I see in the frame. I can’t help but watch myself watching—the art, the spectators. The more time I spend with Schorr’s images, the more I sense that 8 Women is also about the process and duration of my looking.
8 seconds. At least 8 other gallery patrons spend roughly 8 seconds with Schorr’s work. They come and go, passing a portrait in which the model’s head is turned toward the gallery exit. Its title asks the relevant question: Where are you Going? (2013). Is 8 Women so easily and quickly consumable?
8 is not a lot of women; 8 is the symbol of infinity. Collage II (Marie), 2013, is the only art piece not on the wall. A three-dimensional sculpture crafted with contiguous rolled-up prints, it literalizes the figure 8 and contains it in a glass box on a pedestal. One image of Marie blends in to the other, producing a double-headed, multi-limbed, surreal figure. Between few and infinity, subject and object, origin and copy, present and past, female and male, 8 Women is an evocatively impossible body.