Alex Prager is known for blurring the boundaries between viewer and performer. The LA-based artist’s latest film La Grande Sortie is currently showing at New York’s Lehmann Maupin.
The film, commissioned by Paris Opera Ballet’s online platform 3e Scène, enters the world of a prima ballerina on the opening night of her stage revival, following a mystery break. The dancer experiences stage fright, which is magnified by Prager’s turning of the camera both ways — we also see the crowd’s reaction, faces crammed one alongside the other, row after row, lit and clothed in a manner which ever-so-slightly eschews reality. At points, members of the audience join her on stage. The wider comment on anxiety, and our constant struggle to succeed and avoid embarrassment is universally relatable.
The film is accompanied by a photo series which has a similarly unnerving effect, the viewer placed in the position of performer, gazing at rows of a variety of faces which are all open to interpretation: Are they bored? Judging? Should the performer even be focussing on them?
As with the majority of Prager’s work, this series crosses many lines, between watcher and watched, reality and fiction, exposed and concealed.
‘La Grande Sortie’ is showing until October 23 at Lehmann Maupin, 201 Chrystie Street, New York
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In this issue we speak to artists who explore the idea of self care through different avenues—whether looking at the addictive and eerie pull of solo bathroom time, exploring the powerful potential of self-preservation for marginalized and under-represented groups, or finding ways to protect the healing microbiomes that we can’t even see.