Aug 6–Aug 17, 2007
UC Irvine

In association with SECT IV, UCHRI presented “Stranded Subject (weekends),” an exhibition of the recent photographic work of Los Angeles artist Dorit Cypis. The show was organized by independent curator Denise Spampinato.

The University of California Humanities Research Institute (UCHRI) presents “Stranded Subject (weekends)” – an installation which includes photographs, a time line and video projection – by Los Angeles artist Dorit Cypis. The show is organized by independent curator, Denise Spampinato.

The exhibition is part of the UCHRI summer Seminar in Experimental Critical Theory being held on the University of California, Irvine campus on “Cartographies of the Theological-Political.” The seminar, convened by UC Berkeley Professors of Anthropology Saba Mahmood and Charles Hirschkind, in collaboration with UCHRI Director and UCI Professor, David Theo Goldberg. The seminar is bringing 65 participants and eight instructors together from around the world.

Each of the nine photographic images featured in “Stranded Subject (weekends)”, is a poetic transformation of pictures taken from the pages of the Los Angeles Times and New York Times, July 2001-November 2006. By juxtaposing seemingly disparate images, Cypis incites the viewer to seek unfamiliar intellectual, historical, allegorical and emotional contexts which might open up the possibility of thinking differently about issues which the media continues to frame in a homogeneous fashion. Each piece retains some of its original documentary quality but by superimposing two images, or altering its inner contours, Cypis erases the boundary between the documentary and the allegorical. In so doing, she also refocuses the referentiality of the work away from the familiar framing of the photos depicted, opening up the possibility for empathy with those depicted in the images. The exhibit will also feature a video project titled “Anthem (the source of Stranded Subjects)” – an active archival depository of Cypis’ previous work.
Cypis’s work sets in motion the subjects within the photos who might otherwise be stranded in the wasteland of “yesterday’s news.” The teleological speed of media production is counteracted by the duration of Cypis images, and the a-synchronic timeline that links the images in anything but a chronological order. By freeing the newspaper photos from their specific historical reference and by suturing them seamlessly with other newspaper images, Cypis’s work also mimics the manner in which images of traumatic events inevitably connect with other traumatic events. It is this necessary unmooring from the strictly documentary that brings out the excess of the pictures and it is the way we position ourselves to this ‘excess’ that determines the degree of our ethical response to the world. In Cypis’s work, aestheticizing the familiar is a precursor to some possibility of an ethical response.

Dorit Cypis’s work has been presented through national and international art centers (Whitney Museum of American Art, ICP, ICA Boston, SF MOMA, Walker Art Center) and through social contexts outside of art institutions. Employing strategies of photography, performance, installation, sculpture, and social interactions, she questions cultural notions of representation and identity, provoking relationships between one’s interior experience and one’s direct experience of social space and time, between the psychological and the political. Cypis is 2007 C.O.L.A. fellow.

Denise Spampinato is currently a graduate student in the department of Comparative Literature at UCI. As a freelance curator over the past decade, she has organized numerous performance festivals, exhibition and panels in the US and Europe. She has taught courses in critical theory in the MFA Writing Program at Otis College of Art and Design and at UCLA where she taught a class on Performance Art for BFA students