Sue de Beer
Harry Dodge & Stanya Kahn
Luis Gispert & Jeffrey Reed
Erik van Lieshout
Stephen G. Rhodes
Ryan Trecartin & Lizzie Fitch
The story of Let the Good Times Roll (2004) is quickly told: Lois meets Dave in the desert, where they wait together for a bus that is supposed to bring them to a music festival. But the bus doesn’t come. Eventually they give up and end up in a motel together. There, Lois tells a few stories, which Dave—as he has already done during their earlier wait in the desert—records on video. Regardless of the fact that Lois is a pretty funny person and a vivid storyteller, nothing else happens.
However, with the genre character of the “storyteller,” the film obtains a rather complex structure that juggles three different tenses, almost like in the 1001 Nights. We watch what Lois has experienced as she speaks. Thus, events in her distant past are recounted in the present tense of the film which, however, turns into a kind of past because it is documented on video, a past to which Lois and we ourselves can return as often as we want in the present. This construct leaves only Lois as guarantor for the truth of the content of her story.
Then there is the figure of Dave, who filmed Lois. Except that “Lois” is Stanya and “Dave” is Harry. Both protagonists are artists who are not exposing, recording, or even altering their own experiences, but rather staging invented events of fic- tional people.
Of course, this type of performance relies on the “fourth wall” by simply staging an event as if it is supposed to be real. Yet it is specifically in the paradox of its supposedly natural flow that the story’s potential lies. The account maintains a belief in the reality of the fiction despite a tacit agreement between the storyteller and the recipient that the story is not real. In this way, the content acquires a special dimension that makes a statement about more than just that one night in the motel.It is almost as if the two artists were creating alter egos or characters through which they can express indirectly that which cannot be expressed directly. Serving this purpose is Lois, a light-headed, stereotypical hippy from California who values music, parties, drugs, and sex above all else. We learn little else of the rest of her life. She has missed a concert, but she is certain that it all makes sense on some level; there has to be a reason why the useless waiting brought these two people together. There also has to be deeper meaning in the sexual excesses which she observes and in which she herself participates. Lois’s experiental realm is reduced to seeking adrenaline kicks and, to a much lesser degree, an underlying yearning for a structuring force that would give meaning to her life. For her, sharing extreme experiences at least suggests closeness. For example, in one of these scenes, she watches as a man shoves an oversized, black, shiny dildo into another man’s anus while she’s at a raging party. This experience provides her with a rather misplaced, quasi-religious revelation urging her to “Submerge the impenetrable!” In the throes of her epiphany, she proceeds to penetrate the French host Nanette, delving with both of her fists into Nanette’s two holes. She delights at the feeling of being, metaphorically, “like a ball in a socket.” Her very physical metaphors culminate in fantasies of merging when she sees how her hands have been swallowed by Nanette’s body. She feels, as she says, “wired into this natural power source.”
Her cliché hippy statements, like “I felt full of love and gratitude” or “People [could] be all together, side by side, we’re all here, we’re all together!” constrast sharply with her desolate and continually worsening condition in the desert, waiting for a bus that is not coming. Hail Godot! In accordance, we are offered the symbol of the desert as a place of no return, emptiness, and the end. Lois is thus confronted with the “real,” with contingent experience, but she offers staunch resistance. It is for this reason that Dave and Lois must be staged, must be reenacted by people like Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn. Lois is not reframed with ironic distance—Stanya knows what she is talking about. However, by letting Lois talk, she takes the tiny step of dissociation that changes everything, a step of which Lois herself is already aware.
Stanya Kahn was born in 1968 in California, USA
Live and work in Los Angeles
|2007||No Ins And Outs, carlier | gebauer, Berlin|
|2006||Elizabeth Dee Gallery, New York|
|2006||Defamation of Character, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, New York |
Combine Platter, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles
|2005||Ed Ruscha Film Night, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles |
Marking Time, Getty Museum and Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, Los Angeles
|2001||By Hook or by Crook, Independent feature film, Selected Screenings|
Francis Frascina, “Four Decades of Politics and Art in Los Angeles,” in: Modern Painters (November 2006).
Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn, “On Making Comedy in a Time of War,” in: Modern Painters (November 2006).
Roberta Smith, “Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn,” in: The New York Times (May 12, 2006).
Rachel Kushner, “Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn,” in: Artforum, no. 6 (February 2006).
Ken Johnson, “Stanya Kahn and Harriet ‘Harry’ Dodge,” in: The New York Times (August 5, 2005).