Hustlers & Empires is a new project by Michelle Handelman that has been commissioned by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art as part of their 2018 Performance in Practice series. Hustlers & Empires interweaves stories of three aging hustlers from different time periods who each find themselves pushed out of their own game and forced back to confront what their lives have become. It looks at transgression as a mode of survival, examining the complicated relationship between pleasure and risk, and how identity is formed in resistance to oppressive forces.
Irma Vep, the last breath (work-in-progress) is a multichannel video project based on Musidora, the French silent film actress, and the character she is best known for, Irma Vep from the film Les Vampires (dir. Louis Feuillade 1915). It’s a piece about living in the shadows, about criminal anxiety and the relationship between the artist and her creation, both fictional and real. Irma Vep and Musidora are played by Zackary Drucker and Flawless Sabrina, two artists who’s identities transgress the border of art and life. Together they have developed a relationship that documents a cultural evolution of gender.
Dorian, a cinematic perfume (2009/11), is based on Oscar Wilde’s 19th century novel, “The Picture of Dorian Gray” and its themes of decadence, narcissism and the meaning of art. Presented as a non-linear narrative on four screens, Handelman’s Dorian employs the queer undertones of the original novel as a starting point for a feminist reworking of the tale through a new queer identity.
This Delicate Monster (2004/07) is a multimedia pop fable inspired by Charles Baudelaire’s 19th century collection of poems, Les Fleurs du Mal. Handelman transposes the Les Fleurs du Mal into a pop landscape, creating a haunting and hallucinatory fragmented narrative that lies somewhere between a horror film and a fashion shoot gone terribly wrong
Folly & Error is part of Handelman’s project This Delicate Monster (2004/07), a multimedia pop fable inspired by Charles Baudelaire’s nineteenth century collection of poems, Les Fleurs du Mal. These are the twins Baudelaire refers to in his poems – folly and error, pain and pleasure, life and death, happiness and sorrow – caught in an endless Sisyphean landscape of struggle and desire.
Candyland (1999) is a single channel video. The camera is stable, fixed, replicating in pure objectivity. The artist is motion, slow, studied in obsessive concentration. This piece came from a daydream of geometry and perversion. A candy doll character travels the two-dimensional plane. Little dog licking the floor, looking for bytes, loving that smooth groove of wood.
From pushy bottoms to macho femmes, Bloodsisters is an A-Z documentary guide that takes an in-depth look at the San Francisco leatherdyke scene during the mid-nineties, shattering assumptions about gender and lesbian sexuality. Handelman's film doesn't describe the bounds of permissible fantasy in the women's leather community; rather it broadens the discussion about private expressions of eroticism and their political implications. Eight self-described leather dykes tell their stories about participating in a subculture cast off by its own immediate ally, the larger lesbian community.