video still from “I WANNA BE YOUR MID-LIFE CRISIS”
A critic once observed that my photographs of men are often comical whereas the pictures of women are more reverant. He might be onto something. I suspect the pictures of men have an element of self-portraiture.
Laurel Nakadate’s fantastic videos and photographs are the flip-side of this equation. She often photographs herself in the presence of awkward men. In a review of her 2005 show, the New York Times wrote:
For her notorious project ”I Wanna Be Your Mid-Life Crisis,” Laurel Nakadate invited middle-aged men who tried to pick her up to collaborate in videotaped performances. A three-channel video in this exhibition continues in that vein. One segment shows the young, exceptionally charismatic Ms. Nakadate and one or another of her down-at-the-heels partners crawling on the floor pretending to be cats. In another she and a balding man listen to each other’s chests with stethoscopes and hear the Righteous Brothers singing ”You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling.”
The men in these and other scenarios look both amused and bemused, and the overall effect is both sad and comical. Ms. Nakadate may be asserting feminist self-empowerment and satirizing seamy sexual dynamics, but you can’t help feeling sorry for the apparently harmless and lonely men whom she teases.