Gillian Wearing’s Masked Confessions / Hyperallergic

Gillian Wearing, “Everyone” (2014)

Gillian Wearing, “Everyone” (2014)

LOS ANGELES — For her exhibition EveryoneGillian Wearing hired palm readers to tell her fortune without knowing her professional identity. Each one came up with drastically different predictions, suggesting the fallacy of set-in-stone definitions of destiny and fate. In the gallery, the artist presents three right-hand resin sculptures and one left hand. On them we see a variety of statements such as, “You could certainly write a novel,” “You are a practical person who does too much thinking,” “Your soul has chosen a beautiful path,” and “You will always serve people.” It’s as if to say: choose what you want to believe, and if you believe it enough it may come true. The viewer becomes the voyeur of these palm readings, picking the statements she’d most like to hear. This is typical of Wearing’s work, in which the artist serves as a conduit for other peoples’ confessions while concealing her own subjectivity. In this exhibition, everyone becomes a stranger — both the visitors to the gallery and the people involved in making the work. Words linger longer when we cannot put a name to a face.

Wearing’s confessors are a healthy mix of men and women, but there’s an odd absence of people of color (the masks only just cover the confessors’ faces, and their arms and hands are visible). The experience left me wondering about the racial and class contours of fear. In a moment when racial tensions are raging post-Ferguson and the Eric Gardner verdict, making apparent the cognitive dissonance between the real world and art world, the lack of people of color in Wearing’s first US video seems to hint at who feels comfortable volunteering themselves to be filmed confessing on camera, even if (or perhaps because) they’re wearing white-skin-toned masks.

Read the full review on Hyperallergic: http://hyperallergic.com/170494/gillian-wearings-masked-confessions/