The Shoe Collection of Hortense Muriel Walker and The Other

Kay Burns

Festivals: M:ST 6 Biennial | October 15 - 27, 2012.

Kay Burns’ current exhibition at TNG, like much of her work in all media, involves a somewhat elastic approach to the inclusion of fact and fiction. For several years she has explored ideas related to the creation of and enactment of alternative identities. Many of her performance art projects have been undertaken as an alternative persona, Iris Taylor, ethnographer and historian. Underpinning her performance work as Iris are questions of identity — what constitutes identity, how identity evolves, the malleability and flux of identity, and the interplay between her own identity and that of her fictional ‘other.’

Within each of the two photo-based installations at TNG, different concepts are explored that pertain to outsider and/or marginalized identities. The installations are presented as the collected documentation and materials of an anonymous archivist. The archivist is an ageless, nameless, genderless, timeless, institution-less, individual. Through these installations, broad questions surface regarding the impetus to collect, to archive, to annotate, to scrutinize the lives of others and to make them public in a curious way.

The Shoe Collection of Hortense Muriel Walker is presented as the archivist’s collection of photos representing the de-accessioned collection of shoes with curious histories that was assembled by Hortense Walker (thus a collection of a collection).

The Other is a project that explores the notion of identities nested within identities. History offers evidence of women who lived convincingly as men for decades. In a series of performative photographic tableaux Burns ‘performed’ several identities of women-performing-as-men, recorded through B&W photography. Through darkroom processes she sought to make the photographs look old, augmented through their presentation in antique frames accompanied by the authoritative voice of the archivist within the didactic materials.