Made up entirely of images of the glorious Grace Jones as collected by Cauleen Smith, Living Grace’s Life in the Google is a file that was featured in the 2016 group show, The Grace Jones Project, at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. Originally exhibited on a TV monitor, the presentation is now available in its original file format. Acting as a documentation of the myriad styles and personas Jones has inhabited over the past fifty years, Living Grace’s Life in the Google a testament to Jones' singular legacy and Smith’s determination to preserve it within a novel moving image form.
Smith's thorough and wide-ranging accumulation of celebrity images calls to mind artist Kathe Burkhart's ongoing Liz Taylor Series of paintings, which has spanned over 30 years. It also recalls Richard Hamilton's early Pop Art collage My Marilyn, and Mickalene Thomas’ video piece Do I Look Like a Lady? (Comedians and Singers) featuring clips of black female performers. The fandom and idolatry of the slideshow also speaks to the work of Lyle Ashton Harris particularly his self-portraits as seminal black female performers Billie Holiday and Josephine Baker as well as his piece Performing MJ in which he became Michael Jackson. The depiction of the laborious process of fandom acts as a redescription of the methods first pioneered by first generation minimalists and conceptualists of the 1970s, but taken to a twenty-first century digital extreme. Living Grace’s Life in the Google is as much a work of endurance and an evocation of the “repetition compulsion” indicative in digital culture as it is a presentation of Jones's endlessly vivacious life.
This work is part of the series Files, available exclusively on Badlands’s website. Artists in the 21st century have a multitude of technological options for creating artworks. Using a computer, artists now print paintings, extrude sculptures from plastic compounds, even automate entire performances from a laptop. But whatever the form the work finally takes, it was first and foremost a file—a computer file that the artist created in order to control and direct the devices at her disposal. Artists using technology are all, in this regard, filemakers.
A file is the work before the work. It is the “score” that directs the printer, or projector, or speaker to create the form of expression we experience. And as such, artist files hold immense value and potential in contemporary culture. They are works in their own right that illuminate the sensibilities and ideas of some of the most compelling artists working today.
Each file is created by the artist and is saved as a document derived from the originating software that the artist used to create the file and subsequent work. As an essential element of the final work, the file is unique in how it manifests the “spirit” of what the work ends up becoming.
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