by Jacob Kiernan
To get to Janine Antoni and Stephen Petronio’s video installation Honey Baby, one must navigate a boneyard of twisted skeletons. On screen, a body writhes languidly in a vat of honey: curling into shapes preternatural. Each dilatory movement reverberates in the viscous liquid, evoking a child in the womb. For fourteen minutes, he slowly contorts in his saccharine environment.
In 1977, Joseph Beuys built Honeypump in the Workplace, a steel container that pumped two tons of honey through plastic tubing lubricated with fat. He explained it represented the bloodstream of society. In 1992, Antoni outsized Beuys with Gnaw, a 600-pound block of solidified lard. It spoke to society’s reification and excess. Honey Baby continues this material conversation, by injecting the turgid nectar into wellspring of life.
In The Body Artist, Don DeLillo describes a performance piece called Body Time. On a bare stage, an artist transforms herself from an ancient Japanese woman into an emaciated and aphasic man. “The body has never been my enemy,” the artist explains, “the idea is to think of time differently….When time stops, so do we.” The performance stretches, slows, and, eventually, stops time.
Antoni’s Honey Baby evokes a similar slowing of time. In her video, the sensual contortions of the body call out to a prenatal time before time. Movement is desultory; sense swallows structure; the body is its own clock. Seconds, minutes, and hours have not yet started to tick—temporality is fluid. For a sweet moment, the body exists outside of time.Janine Antoni: From the Vow Made Luhring Augustine 531 West 24th Street New York, NY 10011 21 March – 25 April 2015