Currently on view

Alexandra Metcalf
Vol. 18

March 16 - April 23

Opening reception; Thursday, March 16th, 6 - 9pm

15 Orient is delighted to present “Vol.18,” a debut solo-exhibition by New York based artist Alexandra Metcalf. The show is Metcalf’s first with the gallery and her first solo-presentation in New York.

Alexandra Metcalf (b. 1992) is a London-born, New York based artist. Her hand-crafted works address the social and personal history of femininity in conjunction with themes of fantasy, identification, domesticity, anxiety and loss. Drawing on a personal archive of specific traditions of craft and ornamentation (Brit-Punk, The Arts and Crafts Movement, and Victorian England), Metcalf elaborately allegorizes and reimagines the mother-daughter dyad. Her works have previously been exhibited at Fitzpatrick Gallery (FR), LOMEX (NYC), Downs and Ross (NYC), and Ginny on Frederick (UK).

“Once when my mother and Adrienne were suckling their infants, a daughter and son respectively, they changed babes for fun. So occasionally Adrienne would laughingly challenge me with a: ‘You whom I once fed with my own milk!’ At that I would blush so madly that my mother frowned and scanned my face to find out what could have made me so red. How was I to conceal from that clear gaze of hers, blade-grey and threatening, the image that tormented me, of Adrienne’s swarthy breast and its hard, purple knob?

As I wondered about Adrienne’s house, forgotten among the tottering piles of books, among the countless volumes of an old medical library that smelt like a cellar, among giant shells and half-dried medicinal herbs, bowls of cats’ food gone sour, the dog Perdreau, and the tom-cat with the white mask who was called Collette and ate plain chocolate, I would start at the sound of a call that came over the rose-fettered yews and the emaciated thuyas paralyzed by the python coils of wistaria. My mother had suddenly appeared at a window in our house, as though to give the alarm for fire or burglars, and was calling my name. What a strange thing is the sense of guilt in a blameless child! I rushed home at once, putting on a guileless expression and the breathlessness of one taken by surprise.

‘All this time at Adrienne’s?’

That was all she said, but what a tone of voice! Sido’s acute perception and jealousy on the one hand, and my excessive confusion on the other, led, as I grew older, to a cooling of the friendship between the two women. They never had any altercation, and no explanation ever took place between my mother and me. What was there for us to explain? Adrienne was careful never to entice me or detain me. One can be captivated without love. And I was already ten or eleven years old. It took me a very long time to associate a disturbing memory, a certain warmth in the heart, and the enchanted transformation of a person and her dwelling, with the idea of a first seduction.

Sido and my childhood were both, and because of each other, happy at the centre of that imaginary star whose eight points bear the names of the cardinal and collateral points of the compass. My twelfth year saw the beginning of misfortune, of departures and separations.”
Colette, Sido

“In A Pitch of Philosophy Cavell writes of the opera diva’s voice as a vehicle for ‘expressing the inexpressible.’ He proposes that ‘we think of the voice in opera as a judgment of the world on the basis of, called forth by, pain beyond a concept.’ For Cavell this pain ‘recalls the primitive terror of separation from the mother-breast monad in infancy.’ It is the pain of surrendering the plenitude of the undifferentiated ‘all’ feeling of the pre-symbolic for the world of language, culture, subjecthood and paternal law. This separation (which for Kristeva is achieved through a psychic ‘matricide’) engenders trauma, which forms the foundation of the skeptical crisis. Drawing on Cavell and Kristeva, Ludger Viefhues-Bailey asserts that while the ‘male skeptical narcissist’ is ‘driven by a desire to control that which is absent, next, or beyond’, the woman ‘abandons herself both to the pain of not being in control of words in a world that is not hers and to the jouissance of receiving words from beyond herself.’”
Michelle Devereaux, “Orders From an Unborn Baby: Maternal Scepticism, Vengeance and Voicelessness in Alice Lowe’s Prevenge”

“The actor is the subject of the camera, emphasizing that this actor could (have) become other characters (that is, emphasizing the potentiality in human existence of the self’s journeying), as opposed to the theater’s emphasizing that this character could (will) accept other actors (that is, emphasizing the fatedness in human existence, the self’s finality or typicality at each step of the journey). In opera the relative emphasis of singer and role seems undecidable in these terms, indeed unimportant beside the fact of the new conception it introduces of the relation between voice and body, a relation in which not this character and this actor are embodied in each other but in which this voice is located in – one might say disembodied within – this figure, this double, this person, this persona, this singer whose voice is essentially unaffected by the role.”
Stanley Cavell, “Opera and the Lease of Voice”

“Kitsch objects are not apprehended as the souvenir proper is apprehended, that is, on the level of individual autobiography; rather they are apprehended on the level of collective identity. They are souvenirs of an era and not of a self. Hence they tend to accumulate around that period of intense socialization, adolescence, just as the souvenir proper accumulates around that period of intense subjectivity, childhood.”
Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection

“The souvenir reconstitutes the scene of acquisition as a merging with the other and thus promises the pre-imaginary paradise as the self-as-world even as it must use the symbolic, the narrative, as a device to arrive at that reunion.”
Susan Stewart, On Longing: Narratives of the Miniature, the Gigantic, the Souvenir, the Collection

“No longer does the dream reveal a blue horizon. The dream has grown gray. The gray coating of dust on things is the best part. Dreams are now a shortcut to banality. Technology consigns the outer image of things to a long farewell, like banknotes that are bound to lose their value. It is then that the hand retrieves this outer cast in dreams, and even as they are slipping away, makes contact with familiar contours. It catches hold of objects at their most threadbare and timeworn point[…]And which side does a thing turn toward dreams? What point is its most decrepit? It is the side worn through by habit and garnished with cheap maxims. The side in which things turn toward dream is kitsch.”
Walter Benjamin, “Dream Kitsch”

“There is at least one spot in every dream in which it is unplumable – the navel, as it were, that is the point of contact with the unknown.”
Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams

“The collector dreams his way not only into a distant or bygone world, but also into a better one-one in which, to be sure, human beings are no better provided with what they need than in the everyday world, but in which things are freed from the drudgery of being useful.”
Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”

Quotes compiled by Celia Lesh and Shelby Jackson