Exhibition documents, 2004


Based On A True Story

September 14 - October 23, 2004


Romeo Doron Alaeff, Fernando Bryce, Zoe Crosher / Leslie Grant, Carla Herrera-Prats, Vlatka Horvat, Erik Schmidt, Hito Steyerl, Lisa Tan

Curated by Christian Rattemeyer


Artists Space

38 Greene Street

New York, NY 10013




Over the last two decades, the dominant discourse surrounding identity politics in art has evolved from politically charged dissent on the margins of the canon to readily accepted instances of cultural, geographic, ethnic, and gender specificity that have seemingly been incorporated into mainstream histories of contemporary art.  Identity, it seems- as a means of production and a subject of contemporary art- has moved from radically contesting existing structures of power to a position of ever-increasing self-hybridization, differentiation, and de-essentialization, applying it's constant contestation to its own inner workings.


Originating from an interest in the narrative conventions operating in much recent art that has emerged under the auspices of identity-based classifications, Based on a True Story takes the subject of "identity" in contemporary art practice as its reference point.  Ranging formally from the strictly documentary to the fictional, and thematically from the introspective testimonial to the historical account, all works in the exhibition explore the narrative procedures at play in relaying first-hand knowledge and experience.  Here, identity is not perceived as a construct of outside forces of predetermined paths, but rather, it manifests only momentarily, through the personal experiences that form the basis of each work.  But personal experience as the privileged locus of identity formation- if it is to be understood as a temporary situation where agency is present only for an instance- must also be measured against the artists' desire to render meaningful that which is available only as a fleeting impression.


The embellishments of one's feelings and memories, the willful, even forceful, attempts at signification, make it impossible to render transparent any supposed primacy of experience as a conduit to the true, authentic or uninhibited self.  Experience and the self, it seems, occupy different strata of narrative display, constantly engaged in a struggle to emerge victorious for the privilege to signify.  Identity, then, becomes a category of active imagining, which can take many forms, from the most classic documentary to the most deceitful invention.


- Christian Rattemeyer