The unfinished, “future” works guide the direction of the show, mostly through anxiety and shrill squeals. “There’s something wrong,” says one piece. “My alignment has always been off,” says another. The four small pieces disassemble and begin to discuss their qualms nervously. Amigo, on the left, is a classic, older example of Kahn’s abstract “paintings”—wall-mounted works made from various discrete, canvas-covered MDF boards in irregular shapes. Seascape, on the left, is part of the artist’s most recent series of “object paintings,” which incorporate hand-painted fabrics, muted colors, and representational forms—in this case, a sailboat. Each puppet has a fully formed personality and accent, from Amigo’s lofty British inflections, to one of the unfinished panels whose voice resembles that of Cookie Monster. Amigo is haughty and arrogant, proud of his status as a prime example of the artist’s work, and warns the unnamed, unfinished work that it may never become realized. Seascape, on the contrary, is youthful and friendly, praising the virtues of Instagram (at one point he produces a selfie stick and boasts about his 3,000 followers, naming Klaus Biesenbach, Jerry Saltz, and
among them)—he even pulls out a yoga mat and begins stretching, eager to stay in shape.
The performance concludes with Kahn resolving these sparring voices—placing the panels into a final piece and remarking “that’s it, it’s finished.” Earlier in the show, the puppets discussed “the audience.” One of the unfinished panels wonders, “what is
the audience?” It’s a fitting question given the scope of the show, and especially given the peals of laughter throughout the piece and the words of praise at the close—clearly, Kahn knows his audience, one very willing to see themselves as fodder for the artist’s light jabs, and played to it perfectly with this latest Work
Performa 15 takes place November 1–22 at various locations across New York City.