Curatorial Projects

Antonia Wright: If I Had To Perish Twice

Curated by Maureen Sullivan & John Zinonos

If I Had to Perish Twice is a presentation of two of AntoniaWright’s extreme performances created for video - screaming under water, to the oblivion of the aqua aerobics and sunbathing activity above the waterline; and recreating an experience from childhood, breaking through a frozen lake - but this time in control in a surreal and serene submersion. Combining political and comedic strategies, Wright uses the body as her artistic tool, exploring empathy and questioning social norms through physical actions that combine danger with beauty, aggression with vulnerability. 

The title of Antonia Wright’s work, I scream, therefore I exist, 2011, is taken from Reinaldo Arenas memoir, Before Night Falls, in which the duality of his experiences of imprisonment and exile contrasted

with feeling peaceful and free while swimming in the sea, are a metaphor for life’s infinite simultaneous possibilities and the capacity of the human condition. In Wright’s video, secretly filmed at country club swimming pools in Miami, the frame is bisected, simultaneously capturing the artist screaming underwater, and life above the waterline where the screams cannot be heard and the distressed activity is unnoticed and unacknowledged. With humor and beauty on the surface, the work exposes the different realities of pleasure and injustice, existing side-by-side, and the tensions of our everyday existence. 

In Under the water was sand, then rocks, miles of rocks, then fire, 2016,[1] the order of the earth’s layers are inverted.Wright dressed as “fire”, in a fantastical suit of reds and oranges, inspired by J. M. W. Turner’s color palette of the golden flames in his paintings The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, places fire on ice as she walks slowly across an uninhabited frozen lake. But rather than plunging down into the abyss, in this rendition, she breaks through the ice and bobs like a buoy, fully feeling the intensity of experience before slowly sinking below the ice. Her unexpected sublime nature is in contrast with the unsettling soundtrack composed by Jason Ajemian. Wright explores the fragility in cycles of life and death, the persistence of survival, and the limits of control, compounded by chance.

The two works on view are connected by the horizon, and different worlds and possibilities co-existing. The title of the exhibition is a variation on a line from Robert Frost’s poem Fire and Ice,[2] written in 1920, about how the world will end, likening the elemental force of fire with the emotion of desire, and ice with hate. Yet in the end, determining that either option would achieve its purpose sufficiently well.

4 Times Square, NY, Room2254
March 6 - 12, 2018

[1] The title Under the water was sand, then rocks, miles of rocks, then fire, is from Dave Eggers’s 2002 novel You Shall Know Our Velocity!

[2] Robert Frost, Fire andIce, first published Harper’s Magazine, December 1920

Using Format