Body Doubles raises complex questions about the relationship between the body and identity, and explores the myriad ways that artists have used the body to challenge boundaries—between the individual and society, male and female, interior and exterior, normal and transgressive. As the plurality of the exhibition’s title suggests, Body Doubles recognizes that the body is not fixed but rather in a perpetual state of flux and transformation. The exhibition explores two parallel ideas: first, that multiple bodies can perform one identity (akin to the role of the “body double” in cinema); and second, that multiple identities can exist within one body.
Drawn largely from the MCA’s permanent collection, the exhibition features artists who highlight the body as an object (something that we have), the body as a subject (something that we are), and the body as an ongoing performance (something that we become). These contemporary artists use the body as a tool for radical transformation as reflected through the lenses of sexuality, gender, class, age, and race. They think about the body as a positive problem, or, to borrow Thomas Osborn’s words, as a “vehicle for thought and action.”
Two cornerstones of the exhibition are Wu Tsang’s video installation, Mishima in Mexico (2012), a recent acquisition into the MCA’s permanent collection; and Lorna Simpson’s three-channel video installation Chess (2012), which makes its North American premiere. Body Doubles also includes works by Jean Arp, Valérie Belin, Jeanne Dunning, Robert Gober, Rashid Johnson, Gülsün Karamustafa, Paul McCarthy, Bruce Nauman, Richard Prince, Christina Ramberg, Collier Shorr, Cindy Sherman, Xaviera Simmons, and Gillian Wearing.
Body Doubles is organized by Michelle Puetz, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.
To broaden the conversation around the themes presented in Body Doubles, the MCA commissioned artists Aay Preston-Myint and Latham Zearfoss to create an artists’ publication for visitors to use as a reference in the galleries. Preston-Myint and Zearfoss convened a group of local artists, educators, and activists for a round-table conversation about transgender identity. Excerpts from their conversation are included in this pair of broadsheets with art by Edie Fake and Daniel Luedtke.