MARY WALLING BLACKBURN : Studies for a War Criminal
April 6th through May 13th 2017
MOMENTA at BravinLee Programs
526 West 26th Street, #211
New York, NY, 10001
The exhibition comprises four phalli made roughly of clay and glazed in colors reminiscent of the 1970s—their aesthetic is ‘hippy’ and the execution is amateurish. Each phallus has sat for a studio portrait, which is shown alongside.
The project’s material point of departure is the anecdotal example of ‘Yugoslavian’ war criminals held at The Hague some years ago. Under EU law, the prisoner has the right to rehabilitation. The ‘Yugoslavian’ war criminals, guilty of orchestrating mass rape and genocide, were encouraged to make use of the prison’s craft room. When a US lawyer working at The Hague visited the prison, she found their cells empty; the prisoners were in the craft room sculpting versions of their own penises. Hearing this story, people often ask what became of these ceramics—as if they were available on ebay. They are untraceable. This project materializes an American hallucination of the disassembled products of a war criminal craft room.
Walling Blackburn’s work imagines a future in which our prison-industrial complex is filled with contemporary and past American war criminals (instead of the current state of affairs, where prisons are filled with our underclasses). This lucid dreaming hinges on two fantasies: first, that the United States would actually prosecute its war criminals, which it generally does not; second, that prisons would be truly rehabilitative in ethos and structure.
Mary Walling Blackburn (born in Orange, California) works on the Eastern seaboard. In 2017, the work handles and is handled by optics (the lazy eye ), diagrams (contaminated logics), and Miscreant Class (politics); all is amputated/shaped by the Capitalocene. She is currently working locally; making record of regional war criminals, naturalized and unjailed. Her work will be featured in a solo exhibition at Ulrich Museum in Wichita (forthcoming: April 2017); in the past at Sala Diaz, San Antonio, TX; University Arts Gallery, University of California San Diego; testsite, Austin, TX; and Southern Exposure, San Francisco. She has participated in numerous group exhibitions and events both nationally and internationally, at venues including New Museum, NY; Art in General, NY; Sculpture Center, NY; Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College, NY and Centre Pompidou, Paris and Tate Modern, London. Walling Blackburn’s work and writing have been featured in publications including Afterall, BOMB, Cabinet, e-flux journal, Grafter's Quarterly, and Tamawuj Sharjah Biennial 13 (March 2017). Quaestiones Perversas, co-written by Walling Blackburn and Beatriz Balanta, was released in March of 2017.
Natasha Marie Llorens is an independent curator and writer based in Marseille and New York. She met Mary Walling Blackburn in the fall of 2009 at a lecture the artist gave at The Cooper Union about the impossibility of any guarantee for meaning. In 2011, MWB presented (The Library in) The Land of Fuck as part of NML's master's thesis at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, which centered on the problem of mutually destructive definitions of paradise and hell.