Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Laurel Nakadate Backlash

Laurel Nakadate, still from Beg For Your Life, video, 2006

I thought I was going out on a limb when I panned Laural Nakadate. I mean, it seems like Houston loves her--in the past year, she has had two exhibits here (at Diverse Works and at the Art League). But I feel her work was kind of exploitative, particularly of the lonely old pervy guys with whom she enacts her scenarios. It turns out I'm not the only one who thinks so.
Bless her heart, that Laurel Nakadate just can’t help herself. She’s just cute as a button and old, weird guys flock to her. What’s a girl to do but exploit and mock them for her art? Nakadate does just that in her videos, some of which are on view as a part of the FotoFest exhibition “Medianation” at the Art League, Houston.

Am I just imagining this, or has a “Bum Fight” sensibility taken hold of our culture? All sorts of media types and wannabes are mocking and/or exploiting others for entertainment, from Howard Stern to reality TV to YouTube. I see this practice slowly seeping into the artworld and being perceived as “edgy.”

The message for artists seems to be, go ahead, take advantage of the unwitting, the poor, the desperate, the pathetic, the na├»ve. Hey it’s for YOUR ART! And aren’t you and your art, so much more important than these people? (Kelly Klaasmeyer, Glasstire)
Good piece.


  1. everytime i read something negative about nakadate's work it is never about her craft. no one ever says these videos are boring or tedious or just plain useless. instead they play a game of lets kill the messenger so we don't even need to deal with the message. they always cry "exploitation", which simply means to bring light to a situation. here in the west, alienation is our birthright and i don't see too many people dealing with it as succintly as miss nakadate (except perhaps harmony korine). and as a side note, most of these so-called poor souls she works with really enjoyed the experience, enjoyed the videos and are still friends with her.

  2. The exploited often enjoy the experience. That is how exploiters have justified their actions throughout history. Always. A beautiful, sexy young artist paid attention to them. What's not to enjoy? It still makes me queasy.

    In my piece on her work, I think I dealt pretty strongly with her lack of craft, her apparent contempt for her audience, and her exploitation of at least some of her subjects. In no way did I make an ad hominem attack on Nakadate. I responded to the work itself and her words in discussing the work. But if you care to explain how her videos amount to her dealing with alienation, I will gladly read what you have to say. I'd even be willing to host such an opinion here.

  3. i went and read your review for her feature and you do bring up that her craft is crap concerning that piece... and perhaps it is (i have not seen the film). she probably was a one person crew for most of the shots though and it is difficult to get good sound with that set up. acting is a little trickier to judge. people act all sorts of ways and we only usually see one kind of it in most films... and this is usually based on going from point a to point b. but what if you don't have a point b? how do you act then? what if you don't know yourself all that well and you have little guidence... how does that person act?

    her films clearly deal with the alienated whether it be family-less middle-aged men or listless teenage girls. this is a very large part of our society because we don't have much in the way of community whether we live in the cities or the suberbs. these people fall through the cracks and i personally want to see what is going on with them much more than any billionair turned superhero for that has nothing to do with the reality i see around me. if i don't get uncomfortable watching a film and have a bunch of unresolved questions lingering in my head, then i feel there is no reason to sit through it.

    my first comment was about kelly klaasmeyer's remarks, not your's as you don't really offer much other than to say you agree with her. with that said, i really hate the negative connotation the word "exploit" has inheritted. if you turn on a camera, whatever is in the frame is being exploited... regardless of intention. and there are not too many beautiful young women making art that deals with loneliness to say that there is a historical precedent. i mean, can you think of one other?

    thanks for the reply.

  4. "and there are not too many beautiful young women making art that deals with loneliness to say that there is a historical precedent. i mean, can you think of one other?"

    I can't--Nakadate is something of a pioneer in the way she exploits her subjects!