Nina Yuen: White Blindness
22 March – 11 May 2013
Nina Yuen’s four short films, ranging in duration from just over four minutes to eight minutes, are vintage, sun-streaked jewels, cloaked in hand-me-down fabric and resonating with the gravity of the artist’s childhood and personal relationships. Despite the recurring soft-focus or Super 8-style grain and Yuen’s honeyed voiceover — enacted, mind you, in her recitation of part of Virginia Woolf’s suicide note or on the history of post-traumatic stress disorder — her works are not weightless, cloying pictures.
Yuen, Hawaiian-born and based in Amsterdam, acts in most of her films, including the four in this exhibition, pulling multiple roles when necessary. The film sharing the exhibition’s title, White Blindness (2009), the newest work in the show, contains that soliloquy on PTSD. Yuen painted her studio/living space white and lived that way for a year before filming it, spray-painting white anything she accumulated in that period. The film flickers with backlighting and overexposure to mimic the blinding phenomenon, as Yuen intones Luc Sante’s chilling poem on mortality “The Unknown Soldier”: ‘take my name from me and make it a verb.Think of me when you run out of money. Remember me when you fall on the sidewalk. Mention me when they ask you what happened.”
In Clean (2006), the briefest film on view, Yuen proposes a series of idiosyncratic personal hygiene methods in almost stream-of-conscious thought: instead of using soap, she steps into a plastic bag filled with suds, or instead of using a towel, she uses paper fans to dry her body. Her ‘instead ofs’ become performance art, as Yuen kneels nude in her white, doily-overrun room or sprawls in a printed dress in the grass, enacting the rituals with exacting grace and sobriety.