Alex Da Corte, Activity #21, 2007, Archival Pigment Print, 35×47 inches . Courtesy of Stonefox Art Space.
I Attach Myself to You will feature color portrait photographs and related sculptures that explore the nature of intimacy in a digital world where online dating, chat rooms, MySpace.com, blogs, etc. increasingly supplant real human interaction.
The photographs on view document Da Corte’s ongoing project,”Activities,” a series in which the openly gay artist invites strangers (generally, heterosexual men) he meets in public parks to perform simple actions utilizing a variety of props in his studio. The props are often childlike and feminine in nature – fake flowers, happy-face balloons, holiday party signs, brightly colored ribbon, costume make-up, glitter, etc. and the “Activities” are equally whimsical as well. The main directive is “to play spontaneously with a chosen object(s), and do something with it you wouldn’t ordinarily do.” To break the ice, Da Corte photographs each participant with the same resin-and-glitter-encrusted flower, an “Activity” that Da Corte originally created to perform himself, consisting of the following instructions:
Activity #1: 1. Buy a flower or something sweet
2. Practice giving it away while saying “I Love You”
3. Repeat as necessary
Each participant is then asked to repeatedly perform a new Activity over a 1-3 day period, until Da Corte feels he has caught his subject in a moment of “letting go;” the social mask of masculine bravado giving way to a more vulnerable self-expression. One young man takes a length of purple ribbon and ties it around his neck in a big bow, his thin muscular chest and neck festooned with the pretty noose like a prized horse at a state fair. Another, dressed only in hot pink cotton briefs, jumps up and down on Da Corte’s bed, a Mickey Mouse sign hanging behind him on the wall.
The performances captured are tender yet awkward, revealing his desire to encourage and explore the personal interactions most of us would avoid, especially between those considered to be romantically incompatible: the shy and outgoing, handsome and homely, young and old, gay and straight, etc. As Da Corte identifies with the social inhibitions that initially circumscribe his subjects’ behavior, the resulting documents become a surrogate form of self-portraiture in the end, evoking the humanity in all of us.
While many of the props seen in the Activities photographs are performance-driven objects, tied to the making of the images themselves, a series of related works, Party Signs, function as independent sculpture. These works, made of plastic and resin, mimic the cheap garland-style party signs that feature the sort of inane well-wishes – Happy Anniversary!, Good Luck!, etc. – for special events and celebrations. Referencing the fantasy of fame, and the need to feel special if only for a day, these banner-texts also engage the worlds of pop music and fashion, where lyrics and images alike address our collective desire to loved and popular. With tags like “Forever and Ever,” and “Just Give Me a Fucking Chance!,” Da Corte slyly reminds us that behind every electronic “happy” face lurks a lonely, needy self far more real than any contrived personae.