Performance

Through her videos and performances, Kirby Mages sings a dark song of the self that conceives of the individual voice as extraordinary and expansive, capable of affairs that exceed continental proportions. In her show, and/or next beep beep, Mages eroticizes that strange concept called “America,” and articulates it as a highly personal lover; she challenges democracy to love her back. But where Walt Whitman sang songs in praise of the American experiment, Mages’s love for “America” is deeply alienated, its poetry is the dull rhetoric of U.S. Census Bureau surveys and bank bail-outs. In Mages’s vision, the individual has been lost, the beloved is unpardonably corrupt, and the lover is left like a disillusioned stalker: she is still going through the motions of obsessively “pursuing happiness,” but a loneliness inflects Mages’s works that cuts deep even through her dark humor. Here, Mages explores how one might intervene in the fiction of our reality, how the artist can make a “fiction of this fiction,” how the individual can overcome the radical alienation of contemporary life, and how one can love while speaking in the dead-language of “age-old rhetoric.” — A.W. Strouse