Carol Szymanski: He Said I Thought

October 17 - November 17, 2019

Opening Reception
October 17, 2019
6:00 - 8:00pm

Seated Performances*
October 25, 7pm
October 27, 7pm
November 8, 7pm
November 10, 7pm

Carol Szymanski, He Said I Thought (still), 2019

signs and symbols is pleased to present He Said I Thought, a site-specific solo exhibition by New York based artist Carol Szymanski. The exhibition will mark the debut of the artist’s most substantial performance work to date.

He Said I Thought is a text-based installation incorporating live performance, video, photography and sound to conjure a sharp yet nuanced rumination on acquiescence and ambivalence in gender relations after post-feminism and before #MeToo. Szymanski has long been known for her conceptually sophisticated work exploring language in multiple modalities and using various mediums including sculpture and painting, but most often in ways that focus on the smallest units of signification — the phonemes. With He Said I Thought, Szymanski’s work takes a new turn, widening the view to examine the complexities of interpersonal communication.

The exhibition, culminating in a sound and performance work, mixes references from Thomas Bernhard’s The Loser, Jean-Paul Sartre’s Being and Nothingness, and Nathalie Léger’s Suite for Barbara Loden (inspired by Loden’s film Wanda) with stories from Szymanski’s cockshut dummy text rooted in Roget’s Thesaurus (to be published by Space Sisters Press later this year). The index for the cockshut dummy is wallpapered in the gallery as a universal nonsensical background for recalibrations in various medium of 7 suits designed by Valentino, D&G, Marni, McQueen, Sander, Yamamoto and Galliano. These suits were worn by the artist as work outfits in the late 1990s - early 2000s and represent a homage to the suit as the uniform identity but have been re-invented as sculpture to present a critique of the same identity for its lack of transparency and its acquiescence in a gendered hierarchy. The same suits reappear as details in an eight-channel video installation showing women’s hands and that of the man trying to caress them—imagery inspired by Sartre’s famous passage on “bad faith” in Being and Nothingness—a subterfuge by which individuals hide their own freedom from themselves.

He Said I Thought evolved out of Acquiescence, an artist book Szymanski made in collaboration with Book Works in London in 2007. As this topic is so extremely pertinent now, she has decided to present it to the public for the first time.

The artist would like to thank the following performers:
Yevgeniya Baras, Phoebe Berglund, Laura Bernstein, David Cohen, Janice Guy, Maisa Imamovic, Joan Jonas, Simone Kearney, Kalup Linzy, Luzie Meyer, Abel Ringot, Alex Neuman, Kasenia Saager, Aliya Say, Barry Schwabsky, Sophie Seita, Thomas Stagnitta, Lane Shiotayonii, Charlie Stein and Xiaofu Wang

*RSVP is required for the performances due to our intimate setting. Please e-mail info@signsandsymbols.art to reserve a seat.

carol szymanski’s art spans many media, from sculpture and painting to video and performance. She has become particularly known for a series of sculptures in the form of invented musical instruments, and particularly brass horns, that she has been making since 1993. Szymanski was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, studied at the San Francisco Art Institute and the Whitney Museum Studio Program, and lives and works in New York. Her work has been exhibited internationally. Recent solo and collaborative exhibitions include Pareidolia, Totah Gallery, New York, NY, 2018; The Phonemophonic Alphabet Brass Band, Winter Garden, New York, NY, 2017 curated by John Schaefer WNYC New Sounds Live Series and “Emergency Eyewash” (with Barry Schwabsky), Tanja Grunert Gallery, New York, NY 2017; “A Distance as Close as It Can Be,” Elga Wimmer PCC, New York, NY 2016; “My Life is an Index,” Tanja Grunert Gallery, New York, NY 2015; and “Pissing Against the Wind, or, Sketches on the Mental Drain on the Dead Banker,” Guided by Invoices, New York, NY 2012, which have received press attention in Artcritical, Art Press, Brooklyn Rail, Hyperallergic, and Time Out New York. Between 2004 and 2014 she produced an email project, cockshut dummy, combining writing and images, excerpts from which have been republished in the art and literary periodicals including Atlantica and Vanitas as well as publishing cockshut offshoots, a 4-book series with Book Works, London. Space Sisters Press will publish cockshut dummy in 2020. She has been a recipient of numerous awards including the Rome Prize and a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship. Szymanski has collaborated with numerous composers and musicians including Ben Neill, Ekmeles Ensemble, Betsy McClelland, Dewey Redman, and Wadada Leo Smith. In April 2020, she will present a project at the Park Avenue Armory with Jaimie Branch, curated by Jason Moran.