Darren Bader seems preoccupied with the point of intersection between the real and the fictive. Hence his fascination with film, his interweaving of myth and personal narrative. Hence his use of real world objects, primarily food, as sculpture at Rivington Arms. Hence the real world use to which he puts his imaginative exhibition: to find a home for a cat.
That mundane end does not, in Bader’s case, make for a mundane exhibition. It is theatrical and poetic. To the right of the gallery’s entrance hang four identical texts that detail, in meandering prose, an imagined meeting of the writer’s grandfather and Tom Hanks. The two engage in epic battle as Bader, assuming he’s the writer, teases out the line between fiction and reality. "I wonder if your hands were able to actually meet each other’s bodies," he muses. The texts, many pages in length, are stapled to the wall. You can’t read beyond page one.
From there, Bader moves gracefully around the room, pausing to place a watermelon on the floor near the texts and following up with an end table on which are carefully positioned a bran muffin, a samosa, three apricots skewered on a toothpick, a ceramic rooster on its side and a text. The text provides instructions and ingredients for an omophogy, a ritual sacrifice in which raw flesh and blood are consumed. In the corner near the table are scattered various currencies. If you kneel to inspect, you might notice the grapefruit and onion placed mysteriously on the floor beneath the end table. Equally odd is the postcard reproduction of Courbet’s "Self-Portrait with a Black Dog," billed on the price list as the original on loan from the Musée du Petit Palais, Paris. Next is a self-portrait as Jupiter and Ganymede, those same words scrawled in pencil on the gallery wall for sale as a separate work.
The same sense of humor and mystery is present throughout the show. Especially in its piece de résistance, entitled cat. It is another text, paper surrogate for the real animal, inviting you to sign up to take care of the cat to be purchased with the money in the corner. Bader’s declaration of the show’s intent only heightens the insouciant and indecipherable air of the rest of the work.
One could hypothesize: perhaps the cat is really meant for use in a Dionysian ritual, omophogy or other, to some obscure and sensual god. The myth of Ganymede, the Tom Hanks texts, and the Courbet portrait all concern idealization of the male body in different contexts. In this case, the food too could be seen as offerings. As far as Bader’s work goes though, a hypothesis can remain only that. He does not allow for decisive conclusions. Like any good mystery, it remains somewhat open ended, an enticing journey through portions of the artist’s interests, psychology, and pathology.
ContributorBen La Rocco