It can be said that there is something intrinsically masochistic about art making. But what of the works that take this further, that deal with things too close, too private, too sticky? Practical Masochism is not a show of ‘pain work’ as such; rather than just flirting with the iconography of masochism, it proposes it from a more emotional perspective, and asks what are the possibilities and limitations of a masochistic mode of working? What are the risks?
With the majority of works being made specifically for this exhibition, they demonstrate a plurality of approaches, touching upon themes that range from the distrust of memory, to loss, to the destruction of gender. Masochism as process results in work that may be difficult to make, to show, or to talk about, it may be of an intensely personal nature, it may be too revealing, too embarrassing, or too sentimental. It is also possible for work of this nature to exist that stirs up no parallel emotions in the onlookers, that the difficulty in the work does not necessarily translate to the audience, that the masochism is more present in the artist’s experience of the work than the viewer’s.
This kind of work occupies an interesting place in our era of apparent transparency, of social media and reality television. Can this work only proceed by going deeper and deeper, striving for more truth, more clarity, or are we already over saturated with private life as public life as published life?
It is of an inherently paradoxical nature, why deliberately engage with something you know will be uncomfortable, what is the payoff? It is generally assumed that this work serves the purpose of catharsis for the artist, that the discomfort the work engenders is productive. This exhibition wants to ask whether this is in fact the case? And if the work does not always offer catharsis, if a resolution is not possible, what is to be gained? Practical Masochism could perhaps be regarded as picking a scab, rather than just leaving it be.