Take Aim, Valentine's Day, 2014. collaborative exhibition with Daviel Shy, The Hills Esthetic Center, Chicago, IL

In the exhibition the two artists explored their changing relationship from former lovers to friends via performance, writing, sculpture, installation, photography, video and film. The artists drew inspiration from the story of St. Valentine, and Man Ray's artwork Object to be Destroyed. For their performance and installation Volley, the artists created a combined game of badminton and darts and fabricated birdies with dart ends and played the game while reciting letters that they wrote back and forth as the score for the performance. 

Below: Volley, performance and installation. An altered game of badminton with sharp birdies, and letters written between the artists as their score for the game.

false starts: a stutter

farewell as a starting point

broken as a beginning

Take Aim is an exhibition by artists Hope Esser and Daviel Shy. Esser and Shy, who were lovers from 2005-2011, have had parallel practices, running often extremely close but never intersecting.  Here, they negotiate the back and forth of collaboration, competition and cross-examination in a field of play. Drawing from the imagery of St. Valentine, the exhibition contains letter correspondence, interpretations of Man Ray’s Object to be Destroyed, and an altered game of badminton. The artists combine their tools of writing, film, sculpture, and performance into a Valentine’s Day jubilee of brokenheartedness. Ouch.

false starts: a stutter

The letter is a seemingly soft projectile, a directional correspondence addressed to one, then the other. For eight months our envelopes bounced back and forth— words that would sting, comfort and question. In “Volley,” we reconfigure the game of badminton so that the birdies have beaks, i.e. sharp dart ends. The stakes of the game are immediately heightened when the birdie has the potential to pierce. This work is titled not only for the back and forth motion of the game, but also for the similarity in sound to “vale,” which is Latin for “farewell.”

farewell as a starting point

Before he was executed, St. Valentine wrote a letter to the daughter of his prison guard, Julia, whom he had healed of her blindness. He signed it, “Your Valentine,” which has been co-opted into the holiday we know today. Valentine cards often depict an arrow stuck through a heart. This symbol stems from the story of the Greek god Eros, who was accidentally wounded by his own weapon and consequently fell victim to love’s ordeals. Arrows are direct(ional), shaped thus so that the entry is easy and the exit painful.

broken as a beginning

Heartbrokenness is actually the beginning, as love carries its destruction in its instruction. Man Ray’s Object to Be Destroyed (1923-32) poses this same stipulation:

“Cut out the eye from a photograph of one who has been loved but is seen no more. Attach the eye to the pendulum of a metronome...With a hammer well-aimed, try to destroy the whole at a single blow.”

Man Ray aims to revoke rather than restore the sight from his former lover. His action is a farewell that welcomes the inevitability of violence and brokenness that is inherent to the unpredictable pendulum swing in any game of love. For Take Aim, Esser and Shy each reconstruct and reinterpret Man Ray’s artwork.

to unflinchingly provoke and accept the blows of desire

shooting darts at each other: the letter, the metronome, the birdie

we attempt to break enough to begin again

More on Object to be Destroyed, a work inspired by Man Ray's piece by the same name.