Tallis Eng over at the Paris Review’s blog has an interesting reading of the work of video artist Laurel Nakadate. The essay, in fact, appears to be a work of fiction. It is labeled as such on the site, and that classification is supported by a single mention of the narrator’s name as “Jean.”
That would make this a personal essay interpreting the artist’s work and its relation to the author, but presented as a short story. The Observer cannot think of too many fictional pieces of intelligent criticism. William H. Gass’s The Tunnel? The commentary and index of Pale Fire? Or, you know, maybe the essay was mis-labeled on the site and the author’s nickname is Jean.
Whatever. Nearly subliminal fictional aspirations aside, the piece does work as a fine contribution to the volumes that have already been written about Ms. Nakadate’s work. The writer offers this telling point about that body of criticism:
I’ve heard people say that Nakadate’s male fans outnumber her female ones. Or they’ve pointed out that so many of the lengthy, in-depth reviews of her work—in Artforum, Art in America, Frieze, Modern Painters, The Nation, and The New York Times, for instance—seem to have been written by men. One colleague even told me, “You’re the only woman I know who likes Laurel’s work”… It’s almost impossible for me to think of Nakadate’s art as made for anyone but women.
In the interest of full disclosure, The Observer must admit to being one of the males that has written a lengthy, and one hopes in-depth, review of Ms. Nakadate’s work, though we find the contrast between fiction and reality therein to be a more interesting one than the issue of Ms. Nakadate’s femininity and the relative (and heavily contrived) depravity of her male actors.
Have a look at Ms. Eng’s story in its entirety here.