A0015 – Murgida, (w)hole


Artist Lucas Murgida wore this metal harness as part of (w)hole, a piece he performed in 2009 at the Charlie James gallery in Los Angeles.  The two U-shaped ends latched onto the sides of his mouth; the maroon loop rested around the back of his head, and was attached by way of a pulley system to two “troughs” at the opposite corner of the gallery.  These hand-built cabinets resembled wooden refrigerators and contained sticky foods and pigmented drinks: raisins, cracker jacks, popcorn, red wine, and grape juice. When a gallery visitor opened a trough door, the strings attached to it tugged the corners of the artist’s mouth upward into an uncomfortable smile. Throughout the performance, Murgida stood by the gallery entrance in front of a table, spoke to visitors about the piece, and offered jaw massages, which he provided using latex gloves on the mouths of prostrate participants. The apparatus used in (w)hole alluded to a Rube Goldberg machine, suggesting the inevitability of an expected outcome. In structure, however, the piece aped a behavioral experiment, dependent on viewer conduct. At every stage, (w)hole stressed and exploited the vulnerability of the mouth, treading uneasily between coercion and invitation, masochism and indulgence.