- Selby Nimrod
The interplay between dominance and submission serves as a point of departure for the production of artistic work that plumbs the vicissitudes and violences of power structures and social relations. In their individual investigations of power, the artists in Measures of Authority inhabit and perform within charged power situations as a lived methodological framework for artistic production. Often, their complications of the divisions between lived experience and artwork result in moments of slippage that become a material of the works themselves.
Measures of Authority mines archival research into the life and work of the writer, dominatrix, and artist Terence Sellers (1952-2016), focusing on the confluence between Sellers’s work as a professional dominatrix and her artistic and literary explorations of Sadomasochism. Her most well known literary work, The Correct Sadist: The Memoirs of Angel Stern (1983), for example, is at once a BDSM how-to manual and a memoir, marketed as a fictional account under the nom-de-plume of Sellers’ real-life dominatrix persona, Angel Stern.
Artworks by Chris Kraus (b. 1955) and Leigh Ledare (b. 1976) are similarly grounded in the liminal space between lived experiences where power is negotiated and the production of artistic work that addresses power exchanges that carry with them an erotic charge. Following a tendency to place her subjectivity in antagonistic relation to the subjects of her writing and filmmaking practices, Kraus’ 1987 film How to Shoot a Crime (co-directed by Sylvère Lotringer) appropriates video footage generated by her then-spouse Sylvère Lotringer in the years prior to their relationship, including crime scene documentation and interviews with dominatrices Sellers and Mlle. Victoire. Ledare’s artistic projects have continually taken up investigations of the transference of power between individuals with whom the artist has familial, sexual, and/or contractual affiliations. His subjects’ negotiation with erotic power is most evident in projects such as his photographic series Personal Commissions (2008), while it is the erotics of power itself that is addressed in his recent film The Task (2017).
Archival materials sit alongside the included artworks. Forms of record-keeping, correspondence, and moving images, these materials are excerpted and included not only to emphasize the lived realities from which these literary and artistic projects emerge, but as a strategy to challenge and contend with the narratives of power inscribed within the artworks.
*Measures of Authority borrows its title from Terence Sellers’ book The Correct Sadist: The Memoirs of Angel Stern.