cheating and chow mein at chloe wise's new show
The bright young artist explores Ashely Madison, Chinese food and 'Twin Peaks' in her first New York solo show.
It's impossible to leave one of Chloe Wise's exhibitions without working up an appetite. In her newest solo show, Full Size Body, Erotic Literature, the 24-year-old artist serves up sculptures of greasy Chinatown takeout in place of the breakfast pastries and picnic spreads featured in previous exhibitions. But Wise's menu isn't a window into her Seamless history; it's a slice of a larger social satire. "I've had three other solo shows this year and they all explored themes of desire and consumption," she tells us. "Sexual desire, food related desire, fashion related desire -- I'm exploring how and where these desires can intersect."
Though Full Size Body, Erotic Literature -- which opened this weekend at Retrospective Gallery in Hudson, New York -- features some of our favorite lunch specials, it's more wanton craving than wonton soup. The show's title stems from found words and phrases Wise pulled from profiles she encountered on Ashley Madison -- a dating website for extramarital affairs that was breached by hackers in September. "Unlike Tinder or other easily navigable platforms, it's a really convoluted website with a hilariously bad interface," Wise says.
While most match services feature compatibility questionnaires, Wise explains that Ashley Madison offers multiple choice options. She incorporated found phrases as concrete poems performed in a satirically seductive video piece. "You check off pre-written descriptors about your physical attributes, sexual preferences, and hobbies," Wise says, before reading a rapid fire list of absurd examples. "Full-size-body, slim-to-average body, very sexy, older woman, very mature man, I do not drink, sugar daddy," she laughs. The fragments also feature in paintings alongside stereotypically romantic symbols like roses, painted red nails, and keys -- an appropriated Ashley Madison symbol. "All these idealized images of what romance seems to be actually create this vapid shell," she says. It effectively mirrors what the Ashley Madison leaks revealed: most of the profiles turned out to be robots. "Almost all of the women that men thought they were interacting with were fake," Wise says.
So where does the Chinese food come in? Full Size Body, Erotic Literature explores communities of consent formed around cheating. Ashley Madison is one example, lo mein is another. Although it breaches Kosher law, "Jews are known to love Chinese food and have congregated in Chinese restaurants on Christmas and Fridays for decades," Wise says of the phenomenon she grew up witnessing -- one known as "Safe-Treyf" ("treyf" is the Hebrew word for food that does not meet Kosher law). Like Ashley Madison, Wise sees Safe-Treyf as "a really interesting site of disobeying a law together."
Whether it's monogamy, Judaism, or even gluten free living, Wise challenges us to poke fun at the methods of coping we devise for these so-called laws. "The rules and regulations that society places on the individual and that individuals places on themselves are inevitably subject to fluctuating from person to person. There are so many systems we make to justify our own flawed morales," she says. "I'm really interested in how it becomes communal. Where do communities cheat together?"
The show is Wise's first solo exhibition in New York, and its intimate upstate setting factors further in the idea of a rule-breaking populace. Given the option between two spaces, Wise chose the area with a black and white floor to recall the sleepy-yet-scandalous small town at the heart of Twin Peaks. "The images frequently found in the show -- red rooms, roses, satin, velvet -- trigger the idea of infidelity, but almost an idealized infidelity," Wise says of of David Lynch's cult series. Featuring Berlin's "Take My Breath Away" and The Cure's "Funeral Party," her video piece's soundtrack also adds to the late 80s Lynchian vibe. "Between the music, the floor, and the red wall, you get this feeling that you're in this weird, alternate, almost overtly cheesy and romantic space. Something's off, someone's lying to you, something's hypocritical, something's mysterious -- that's the experience I was trying to create."
It's been a busy year for Wise, and she isn't taking a break before 2016. The next two months will see the launch of Feelings Film Festival -- Wise and fellow Canadian art angel Adam Levett's semi-annual comedy-cum-art film showcase -- in both Los Angeles and Miami. And while her Hudson show focuses on cheating cohorts, community plays a much larger role in Wise's own practice: "I feel extremely blessed and stoked to be surrounded by such amazing creative, intelligent and forward thinking people. There's such an interesting community that forms around creation," Wise says.
Text Emily Manning
Photography Peter Mauney, courtesy Retrospective Gallery