Locust Projects will show work from ‘Blood and Guts in High School’ by Laura Parnes, a series of video installations that re-imagine punk-feminist icon Kathy Acker’s book of the same title. Every time the installation is exhibited new chapters are added, and Locust will premiere “Janie goes to Jail”, with the star of the series Stephanie Vella and Jim Fletcher as a policeman.
The book was written from 1978-1982 during the rise of Reagan republicanism and the emergence of punk rock. In Parnes’ interpretation, each video-chapter presents a typical scene in the life of Janie, bracketed by US news events from the time period in which the book was written. Historical events are juxtaposed with power struggles on an individual level. These events saturate the character's daily experience, shaping her adolescent, nihilistic worldview and her desire for rebellion. As the viewer looks back at pivotal historical events (Jonestown Massacre, Moral Majority, Three Mile Island etc.) connections are drawn in relation to our current political situation.
With its Brecht-meets-MTV style and the use of stark, stylized dialog and sets, a distance is created that allows for a dark yet humorous resonance. Seemingly banal statements take on multiple meanings as they echo through the emptiness of the characters' lives. In each chapter Janie is the ever-shifting protagonist, constantly changing appearance and gender. Regardless of her identity, her punk attitude remains the same as she resists the power of various institutions (work, hospital, school, family). It’s a self-conscious battle wrought with the trappings of a counter-culture that has been subsumed by the mainstream; nevertheless, she remains resolute throughout.
Each video-chapter ends with a surreal journey where sensational news images and the protagonist melt together. Janie crawls over bodies at Jonestown, becomes the crazed cult leader Jim Jones, is a tortured hostage, and has sex in a bomb shelter. Her teenage angst is amplified to the point of absurdity. Or as Chris Kraus states in her catalog essay "Bonds of Love," “Parnes’ Janie sweetly epitomizes punk’s call and response with authority, its genius to wholly internalize and feed back a general sense of futility.”
Acker's novel communicated such futility through its use of pastiche, or appropriation and reconfiguration of texts. In the same spirit, Parnes uses the book as a jumping board. Appropriating from Acker's text as well as from popular culture and critical theory. This is a strategy Parnes has used throughout her career (Hollywood Inferno, Heidi 2 - collaboration with Sue de Beer, and No Is Yes). As in those videos, specific references are not as important for the viewer to understand as the overall effect: As the language shifts in register and grounding a world is created that exposes the schizophrenic nature of contemporary culture - even while retaining narrative coherence.
Locust Projects will also present a series of life-size portraits of the role-changing protagonist, Janie. Each photograph exemplifies Janie’s multitude of appearances presented in the video, accentuating the iconic nature of her character. In addition, a reading display case presents elements of the book as interpreted through Parnes’ script.
Laura Parnes’ videos and installations are informed by traditions and genres in both narrative film and video art, and seek to blur the lines between conventions of story telling and experimentation. Parnes has screened and exhibited her work widely in the US and internationally, including the Museo Nacional Centro De Arte Reina Sofia, Spain; the Whitney Museum of American Art, NY; Dunedin Public Art Gallery, New Zealand; Institute for Contemporary Art /P.S. 1 Museum, NY; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo Galizia, Spain; Miami Museum of Contemporary Art, Miami; Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami; Brooklyn Museum, NY; and on PBS and Spanish Television. Her work has been featured in solo shows at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions, LA; Participant Inc., NY; Deitch Projects, NY; and in a two person screening at The Museum of Modern Art, NY.
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