Unboxing Alec Soth’s ‘SEESAW’

A Alec Soth zine? Please, and thank you!

SEESAW documents a performance, or encounter between Marina Fukushima and Alec Soth, where they “spent ninety minutes together without speaking on October 25th, 2017 at FraenkelLAB in San Francisco. The  series of 8 photographs follow Fukushima as she carefully carries a small plant, pulled from its pot, up and over a large wooden seesaw. You can make what you want of the performance: it suggests a variety of readings.

The 6″ x 8” zine is sort of backwards… if you hold and open it in the traditional right-to-left orientation, the “front” is a solid green with the publisher’s name in tiny print at the bottom, and when you open it, you find the colophon and a photograph of Fukushima in the midst of some sort of dance, perhaps. There’s a spot of dirt on the floor, perhaps leftover or anticipating the plant, wrenched from its pot. Continuing on, the journey up and over the seesaw is backwards, and much more apparently awkward.

In the unboxing, I go through the zine backwards: the back of the zine lists the photographer and title (Alec Soth SEESAW) and features a full bleed image from the series, and when you flip through it backwards, Fukushima goes up and over the seesaw in the proper direction. The placement of her feet, the way they’re arched and flexed, suggests she went over the seesaw correctly, or face first, so it the zine mimics or plays along with or extends the performance, while also fixing it, somehow limiting and altering the possible readings.

SEESAW comes from “SEESAW: Portraiture and Play with Alec Soth and Friends,” a sort of weeklong residency Soth held at the gallery. From the FraenkelLAB website:

For a week in October, Alec Soth shared 90-minute silent sessions with dancers, performers, and other volunteers interested in collaboration and movement. Setting the stage for this work, Soth asked the sculptor Matt Olson to design a set of objects with imaginative potential energy. He also invited choreographer and dancer Isak Immanuel to explore the possibility of the portrait studio as a site for play, and documented the process.

I would’ve liked to see more of the performances, or read some what some critics and visitors had to say about it all. Here, a couple of months after the fact, with only this brief document remaining, I have a bit of trouble sussing out what is all going on, and the back-and-forth of it both excites and frustrates me. The Art Hsitorian in me—I have an MA in Art History and Criticism from Stony Brook University—is ashamed that I don’t have more to say, but I’m right at 10 years removed from that life, and while I’m trying to claw back a bit of it, I’ve spent too much time in front of the Netflix, getting spoon-fed predictable, straight-ahead, mindless pablum, and my critical/imaginative muscles are weak these days.

Shame on me.

not rated.

It appears that copies remain available. They’re limited to 500, though, so maybe be quick about it. If you’re a Soth fan like me, it’s worth the $8, and if not, they’re sure to go up in value once they’re all gone.

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