Spirits: A Portrait of the Artist and Her Father

Berkeley Art Museum
May 2018
Installation: Dual channel video, vinyl banners, zine

“Playing in the realm of familiarity, Maggie Lawson relies on the affective gestures of the past—the red and white patterned fabric, the antique terrace bar cart— to entangle the viewer in the liminal space of the irruptive. The sudden and involuntary liveness of the seemingly disregarded.  Centralizing found objects within her practice, the artist blurs lines between mechanism of display and instruments of function to further entangle personal, social and mythic acts of remembering. Sourcing different mediums for nostalgic representations, Lawson wields installation, video and text as a way to touch [again and again] the resiliency of embodied memory. The pressing of object to body, the movement of hand to mouth—each medium is used to highlight the ritual aspect of everyday actions and the way those actions touch memories into bodies and trace the remembered into space. Using her own lineage as surrogate, Lawson considers the genealogies of trauma, and the reiterative, abiding actions that form its landscape.

Playing with the word ‘spirit’, the artist reckons familial accounts of alcoholism, commemorating, most personally, the Manhattan as her grandfather’s drink of choice. Interesting in the moments mundane actions trespass into violent effects and seemingly glamourous pastimes double as tools of oppression, Lawson asks the viewer to simultaneously hold and relinquish affective attachments to the past. In the video that loops, the artist collocates her hands with the hands of her father, each meticulously stirring and portioning her grandfather’s recipes, intimating the tactility of familial rituals and the ordinary ways trauma lingers despite ruptures in intention or deed. Lawson encourages participatory elements of her practice in order to stimulate reflections on both the offerings and limitations of ancestral relations—while not a healing practice, each enactment places the viewer in direct contact with the irruptive conditions of their own personal landscapes.”

Curatorial Statement
Olivia Young
PhD Candidate UC Berkeley



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