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Don’t be fooled by the fake blood: Ann Hirsch spent a year exorcising herself. CURSED, her solo show at Smart Objects, takes viewers on a tour through her medical anxieties, and drifts into the unresolved psychological depths of trauma and religion. In the first room, sculptures and figurative works become a laboratory for quantifying the self. On opening night, a printer next to vials of fake blood and semen printed years of Hirsch’ medical history into a wastebasket. Elsewhere, the artist displays printouts, photocopies, and dry-erase diagrams—all notes describing bacteria, hormone and blood levels, potential diseases, and more. It’s overwhelming to see, which feels like the point: viewers are confronted by a horror vacui of uninterpretable data, traces of a vulnerable body, and a helplessness to make sense of it all.
At the same time, the curse is more than cyberchondria. The frenetic installation moves beyond the medical into an indiscriminate spiritual quest. Printouts from the Mayo Clinic share space on the wall with notes on astrology, and ancient Latin prayers to the Roman god Janus. Sculptures of the artist’s own head duplicated like the god of transitions are scattered throughout the room. A painted dragon the color of dried blood—her “spirit animal”—coils across the floor. On the adjacent wall, Imagery of devotion to the Matronae displays six figurative works of a historically marginalized trio of goddesses, and in the wall text the artist recounts becoming a “faithful devotee to this collective consciousness” in exchange for healing.
More placards throughout the room blur the lines between description and diary entry, as the artist describes the works on view through personal stories of meeting spiritual guides, making fruit offerings, or looking for divine clues in street names. Like the medical diagrams, these objects evoke both pain and a desire to absolve the body of it, and they bring the viewer beyond search results to more ancient thresholds of spirituality and ritual practice.
Hirsch’s I am my own fourth cousin (2019), a short film using found footage and hand-drawn ghosts, further complicates the nature of the curse by introducing themes of trauma and family history. As footage from Hirsch’s own childhood flows by, she speaks frankly in a voice over about the effects of genetic disorders and how “spirit and energy workers” have exorcised a Jewish ancestor from her body. These connections are not always easy to name or escape: “Trauma can grab us, wrap us in its web.” These cycles spiral unresolved under the playful surface of the show, leaving both artist and viewer on a search for absolution.
Ann Hirsch: CURSED runs from March 8–May 4, 2019 at Smart Objects (1828 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90026).