Jillian Mcdonald

Originating in the Afro-Caribbean belief system of Voodoo, a zombie is a person who has died and come back to life without a soul, speech or free will. In France, during the Middle Ages, it was believed that skeletal figures roamed the graveyards, seeking to avenge a crime committed against them in the land of the living. Modern zombies, like those made popular by George A. Romero's 1968 film Night of the Living Dead, are portrayed as mindless bloodthirsty creatures looking to feast on a tasty morel of brain or bowel. The artifice of films like Romero's has become the gold standard for the zombie film genre - low budget, humorous, nearly plot-less, and obviously fake. In her recent work, Jillian Mcdonald mines this rich history of zombie lore, turning herself and her subjects into the half-human, half-demonic creatures of the night. Whereas her interest in celebrity culture led to a spoof website, several video projects and a real-life obsession with the actor Billy Bob Thorton, she has now turned her affections on the throngs of the undead.

In 2007, Mcdonald premiered the performance/film shoot Zombies in Condoland, in which she enlisted volunteers to prowl the streets of Brooklyn as an army of the eternal restless. Here, she documents the project through animations and digital prints. Although Condoland can be more readily interpreted as participatory, the photographic technique she subsequently employed in her series Zombie Portraits (2007) is also designed to spark interaction. Using a lenticular lens that allows one to witness different images from different angles, Mcdonald morphs her subjects from human to horrorshow. These images also convey their cinematic origin, but unlike in film or video - where the viewer remains static - the lenticularphotographs allow the viewer's position to determine which scene is revealed.

The Sparkling (2008) delves still further into interactivity. A video projection of a crystal chandelier, the image responds to the viewer's proximity by shaking and rattling. As one moves closer, the crystals reach a fevered pitch, emitting a high-pitched shriek. In films like The Amityville Horror (1979/2005) and Fright Night (1985), the chandelier foreshadows the supernatural horrors to come. Here, Mcdonald trades the more visible markers of evil - zombies - for a more subtle style of foreboding. Whether she utilizes photography, performance, or video, the artist is interested in the relational. Romance and horror films mine the universal emotions of love and fear to affect viewers. Mcdonald concentrates on the emotional impact of these tropes to examine how their effects continue off-screen; ultimately altering the ways we experience the world.

Jennifer Grimyser

For Jennifer Grimyser, words suggest themselves before imagery. Starting from these verbal cues, she extrapolates language into more abstract markings, patterns and images. Employing playful juxtapositions of text and image to create her own visual alphabet, her paintings, prints and drawings intimate larger narratives that extend beyond the confines of the paper or canvas. In Something missing (2008), she mines the power of simple words to convey larger meanings. By providing only partial information, she explores the limits of verbal and visual expression. Her familiar sayings convey greater importance than their brevity would suggest; their thoughtful meanings are belied by their pithy means. In The sound of liquid pouring into a glass (2008), lyrical excerpts and meandering lines draw the mind outside the boundaries of the page and into the space beyond. Many of Grimyser's works whisper in this dialect of absence, where what remains unsaid is given as much weight as what is. This indirectness is closely tied to ambiguity - that which makes all communication tenuous. Quietly, it wonders aloud at the lengths we must go in order to make ourselves understood.

Change is Now, a photographic documentation of a site-specific work performed at a Chicago gallery in 2007, chronicles the artist's attempt to suspend the flow of time. Beginning with the phrase "change is now", the artist crossed out the word "now" and re-wrote it again every five minutes. Ticking off time like a bored jailbird, she measured the duration of the 3-hour performance through gestures of erasure and addition. Her attempts to capture the moment, however, were no match for the tenacity of impermanence. Time continues unabated regardless of whatever attempts we make to stop it. Grimyser leaves it for the audience to decide whether to experience this inevitable passing away as a positive or negative event.

If Change is Now can be said to tackle the distance between time and words, You are now a witness (2007) is engaged with the spaces between words and meaning. Here, a bold statement enters an environment otherwise devoid of significant information. Like Grimyser's other works that incorporate hand-written signs, it presents a visual conundrum that inserts humor into the seriousness of language. And it is in these in-between spaces that the artist positions herself, as a translator of both meaning and meaninglessness. Doing so, she helps us recognize the limitations of our own knowledge and comprehension.

- Erin Sickler

Erin Sickler is the New York correspondent for the German art magazine Kunst Bulletin and the Curatorial Assistant and Exhibitions Manager at the Queens Museum of Art. She received her undergraduate degree in Visual Art from Oberlin College and an interdisciplinary graduate degree in Art History and Museum Studies from New York University.