Lust and Loneliness

20110716_BKP502_290 The Economist on the art of Laurel Nakadate:

THE current exhibit of Laurel Nakadate's work at MoMA PS1 raises more questions than it answers. This may be what this artist needs right now, considering how even the praise she has received tends to focus on the least challenging aspects of her work. For several years she made videos featuring lonely older men who started conversations with her in grocery stores and parking lots; she would agree to go home with them as long as they allowed her to film what happened, which would usually turn out to be a scenario of her choosing. In some cases this meant a pretend birthday party (we see the man eating a slice of cake and then singing to her) or a pretend music video (we watch her dance to “Oops, I Did It Again”, Britney Spears’s paean to inadvertent seduction). Ms Nakadate, who was 25 when she started to make these videos in 2000, would often film herself gyrating in flimsy camisoles while the men looked on.

Marilyn Minter, an American artist, has praised Ms Nakadate's attempt “to own the creation of sexual imagery” in the service of self-expression: “When you're a young woman, and beautiful, all eyes are on you. Can you capture that experience?” (For the current issue of the Paris Review, Ms Minter curated a portfolio that includes Ms Nakadate's photographs and stills from her work.) Ms Nakadate's critics, meanwhile, accuse her of using her sexuality to exploit the men in her videos—beer-bellied, awkward loners who seem remarkable mainly for how unremarkable they are.

But neither view conveys how uncomfortable it is to watch Ms Nakadate's work.