Stanya Kahn’s work is imbued with the iconography of Los Angeles: the traits of the city, its characters, streets, style and pace. Helicopters rumbling in the sky above the heads of family members, varied in their daily lives, immediately evokes the setting of the opening sequence of Robert Altman’s Short Cuts. In Kahn’s videos and in the 35-minute-long new piece It’s Cool,
I’m Good (2010), L.A.’s cinematographic trademarks — palm tree rows, ocean waves crashing on the beach, the sunset, freeways running into the desert or police helicopters flashing spotlights into backyards — are visual vessels in the territory of representation. On this stage, the idea of trauma is played out: a goofy androgynous character — performed by the artist — is heavily injured for unknown reasons. She cruises the landscape in hospital gown and crutches, her head bandaged and her limbs in casts, speaking her thoughts loudly in a sort of one-way
dialogue with a fl imsy interlocutor. The two other videos — Kathy (2009) and Sandra (2009) — also address trauma. Shot like a documentary movie, the narrative develops through the telling of life’s diffi cult moments: Sandra, Kahn’s mother, recounts the memories of her life’s misadventures. Her friend, Kathy, speaks of maternity-related traumatic events. They both
give insights into their personal yet universal stories of struggle with sense of humor. Humor is the backbone of the three works: if in Kathy and Sandra humor is embedded in the charismatic personalities portrayed, in It’s Cool, I’m Good it is a literary trope that, with jokes and tongue-in-cheek lines, addresses the comedy genre and the grotesque. La Grande Bouffe, a satirical masterpiece of the grotesque, comes to mind together with the sense of the Theater of the Absurd’s estrangement. “Push everything to a state of paroxysm […]. Create a theater of violence: violently comic, violently dramatic,” said Eugène Ionesco referring to the essence of
his theater. It’s the mixture of paradox, grief, cynicism and irony that makes the works in this exhibition so poignant.