Elena Dahl

IT WAS NOT EASY TO MAKE IT SEEM THIS EMPTY

archival ink prints, each 20 x 30 in.

NOT EASY TO MAKE IT SEEM THIS EMPTY / A STROKE OF LUCK / I HAD TO WAIT / AT TWO O’ CLOCK THE SQUARE WAS TEEMING / THERE WAS A CHILD IN A RED SHIRT DANCING OR BOUNCING A RED BALL / FLIES STUCK TO A BOTTLE OF 7-UP / THE GRATE OF A PLASTIC CHAIR LEG AGAINST PACKED DIRT / AROUND FOUR O’ CLOCK EVERYTHING CLEARED AND IT WAS IN THIS MOMENT / THE NEXT DAY, GARBAGE IN THE SQUARE AND THE STREETS, SHOPS CLOSED / A WORKERS’ STRIKE

If I could call my practice by one name, it would be “plastic.” In French to describe something as plastic is to recognize both its flexibility and its
explosiveness—its capacity not only to receive and give form but to annihilate it as well, like a plastic bomb. Throughout my work, I trace a protesting body that is constantly in the process of reconfiguring itself. It finds itself at a mass sit-in at the entrance to a Wall Street corporate building, or it appears with a camera a hotel bathroom mirror, or it bisects a city square. Repeatedly but always in a different form, it insists on its own active presence in the world.

There are powerful men in this country today who would prefer that I did not own my body, and wish that it did not keep insisting on its presence. They want it to lie down and to tell me I cannot make choices about it. I must both privately evade their reach and publicly destabilize their rhetoric, occupying many vantage points at once. But this body that listens, observes, and shouts, is here and there, is always my own. It doesn’t have one name, its power lies in its mutability, and it refuses to rest.