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no dust to shake off

No dust to shake off

On a sunny spring day, Experimental Sound Studio’s Audible Gallery is an ideal place to immerse oneself in the five decade retrospective of interdisciplinary artist Sandra Binion. The walls are covered with tactile displays of timelines, correspondences, and ephemera selected from Binion’s archive by curator Mariana Mejía (166 distinct artifacts, to be exact). In the center of the gallery, three screens loop video documentation of performances that took place between 1975 and 2024. At any point, the viewer is between these panoptic screens and covered walls—becoming yet another figure activating the work. Binion is a Francophile, locating the source of this obsession in early exposures to the French composer Erik Satie and Gustave Flaubert’s 1857 novel Madame Bovary. Many works directly reference the latter, including an outdoor installation of weatherproof photographs titled Searching for Emma (2021). The series depicts Binion’s ongoing quest to recast Madame Bovary’s titular character, who yearns for a life beyond the means and “provincial” lifestyle provided by her husband; her disillusioned affliction has been coined “the romantic malady.” The universality of this type of female dissatisfaction—a longing for a life beyond one’s station—is so pervasive that, as Binion writes, “I observe young women in passing and imagine each as Emma Bovary, a role that will always be played out in some way in every culture.” It is these unsophisticated banalities of everyday existence that Binion explores throughout her Fluxus performance practice. Enactments of humble domestic labor and activities of daily life pervade the exhibition: ironing, dressing and undressing, scrubbing the floors, eating, sleeping. Binion languidly explores these “choreographies of the everyday” with all the grace afforded by her studies in ballet and modern concert dance. As Binion explains, “something ordinary becomes extraordinary, and through repetition and labor, something pragmatic takes on a heightened presence.” A hefty publication and robust program calendar accompany the retrospective. Don’t miss the reinterpretation of Figure Painting by the brilliant duo Tara Aisha Willis (who also contributed an essay to the catalog) and Ben LaMar Gay at Roman Susan on May 18. Binion says there is “no dust to shake off” this symphony of movement and sound, as it and other historic works are simply “out of the portfolio and back to life.” “Sandra Binion: Autobiography of Looking”Through 6/9: Sun noon-5 PM or by appointment, Audible Gallery at Experimental Sound Studio, 5925 N. Ravenswood, ess.org/esscalendar/sandrabinion, info@ess.org

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