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‘LET’S MAKE A SUBCULTURE OF SUB-PAR EXCELLENCE AND TOTALLY COMMIT TO IT’ This gnomic exhortation flashes up, one word at a time, on an iPad resting on the chrome frame of a tacky coffee table, its glass broken and strewn across a brushed cream carpet. Certain words—‘subculture’, ‘sub-par’—are in their own exuberant fonts, but mainly the message appears in hand-penned all-caps.
It is unclear who is speaking these words, and with whom I should take issue if I wished to disagree (I think I do). Does the voice belong to Juliana Paciulli, the artist responsible for the installation in which they feature (Let’s Make a Subculture…………. )? Or is the protagonist the female figure whose hands appear in the photographs in Paciulli’s exhibition Uh-Huh? These two characters may be one and the same, but something about the consciously airless contrivance of Paciulli’s staged studio photography indicates that we are likely dealing with a surrogate: a generic archetype of young womanhood.
The photographs, in fact, are a good deal more compelling than the installation, and slightly less ambiguous. Against an off-white background, the hands perform suggestive actions with suggestive objects. In Uh-Huh (Dolphin) (2015), they grasp the handles of an inflatable dolphin whose head is slathered in shaving foam; in Uh-Huh (Conch Shell) (2016) they wave a white handkerchief (adieu or surrender?) over a model train-track on which rests a fleshy pink shell dripping white sand. If phallic projectiles, orifices and ejaculate spring—amusingly—to mind, it takes longer to deduce where Paciulli is hoping to lead her viewers. Her protagonist-model seems sometimes complicit and sometimes deflationary in relation to the gendered situations her hands find themselves in. Such, perhaps, is the indecision of youth.
UH-HUH runs January 16-February 27, 2016 at Greene Exhibitions (1639 S. La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90035)