May 20, 2019 - MIT List Visual Arts Center - Ericka Beckman: Double Reverse
May 20, 2019

MIT List Visual Arts Center

Ericka Beckman, You the Better (still), 1983. 16mm film transferred to HD video, color, sound, 32:00 min. Image courtesy the artist. © Ericka Beckman.

Ericka Beckman: Double Reverse
May 24–July 28, 2019

Exhibition opening: May 23, 6:30–8:30pm
Artist talk: June 6, 6:30pm

MIT List Visual Arts Center
20 Ames Street, Building E15
Cambridge, MA 02142
United States
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 12–6pm,
Thursday 12–8pm

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Since the mid-1970s, Ericka Beckman (b. 1951, United States; lives and works in New York and Boston) has forged a signature visual language in film, video, installation, and photography. Often shot against black, spatially ambiguous backdrops, her moving image works are structured according to the logic of child’s play, games, folklore, or fairy tales, and populated by archetypical characters and toy-like props in bright, primary colors. Throughout her work, Beckman engages profound questions of gender, role-playing, competition, power, and control.

Ericka Beckman: Double Reverse presents four moving image works that highlight her ongoing efforts to parse foundational relationships between games and gambling, conditions of labor, and the larger structures of capital. In her groundbreaking film You the Better (1983), a group of uniformed players (including artists Ashley Bickerton, Tony Conrad, and Keith Sanborn) engage in a series of enigmatic ball games futilely betting and competing against a house that always wins. Cinderella (1986) presents a feminist restaging of the titular fairy tale alongside a parallel commentary on the legacy of industrial manufacturing. Rather than toiling in her stepmother’s house, Beckman’s protagonist is a worker in a metal forge who, after several aborted attempts to woo the prince, decides to strike out on her own.

The artist has produced more recent works on location, rather than in the studio, integrating the spatial politics of industrial and other purpose-built architectures into the films. Switch Center (2003) is a kind of post-Soviet, post-industrial ballet shot in a defunct water treatment plant outside Budapest. In Tension Building (2016), Beckman relates the recurring design elements of stadium architecture to the pageantry surrounding sporting events and, more broadly, to political ideologies that support competition as spectacle.

Over the last decade, Beckman has shown major films from the 1980s and 90s in installation settings with sculptural elements and theatrical lighting. Double Reverse features these installations, providing the first opportunity to more fully survey Beckman’s contribution in a US museum.

Ericka Beckman: Double Reverse is organized by Henriette Huldisch, Director of Exhibitions and Curator, MIT List Visual Arts Center.

Exhibitions at the List Center are made possible with the support of Fotene Demoulas & Tom Coté, Audrey & James Foster, Idee German-Schoenheimer, Joyce Linde, Jane & Neil Pappalardo, Cynthia & John Reed, and Terry & Rick Stone. In-kind media sponsorship provided by 90.9 WBUR. Additional funding for Ericka Beckman: Double Reverse is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts.
 
General operating support is provided by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the Council for the Arts at MIT; Philip S. Khoury, Associate Provost at MIT; the MIT School of Architecture + Planning; the Mass Cultural Council; and many generous individual donors. The Advisory Committee Members of the List Visual Arts Center are gratefully acknowledged.

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