The Minotaur Trilogy | Mary Reid Kelley
Mary Reid Kelley l The Minotaur Trilogy
12. March, 2016 - 16. April, 2016
Arratia Beer is pleased to present The Minotaur Trilogy, the first solo exhibition by Mary Reid Kelley with the gallery.
Working primarily in video, Mary Reid Kelley’s meticulously composed scripts contest conventions of written language and
spoken word, fluctuating between comic and tragic interpretation. Often parodically borrowing structure from Alexander
Pope’s heroic couplets or the anapestic meter of Lewis Carroll, the videos fractured narratives reflect their characters’
deluded, perilous states. In her videos the artist usually plays all the roles, disguised through a distinctive monochromatic
palette, wigs and heavy make-up. Made in collaboration with Patrick Kelley, her videos are elaborate constructions which
include live-action performance; props and set design; drawing, graphic animation and printed word.
Comprised by three films – Priapus Agonistes (2013), Swinburne’s Pasiphae (2014) and The Thong of Dionysus (2015)
– The Minotaur Trilogy explores the mythological creature’s tragic family tree. The trilogy fuses classical drama, modern
literature and contemporary pop culture into razor-sharp observations on gender, class, and urban development. They
satirize the promise of progress through dense layering of cultural references ranging from Southern church socials and
Women’s Magazines to Borges and Baudelaire.
Priapus Agonistes condenses elements of Greek drama and mythology with details of the church volleyball tournaments
that the artist witnessed as a child. The Minotaur is re-imagined as a lost daughter in a labyrinthine gymnasium basement,
her sacrifices coming in the form of members of the losing volleyball team. Like Jorge Luis Borges’ portrait of the Minotaur
as anti-hero in The House of Asterion, the Minotaur of Priapus Agonistes is hopelessly lost in an environment of repetitive
space, using the murdered sacrifices as landmarks to help her navigate a path to the lavatory.
In the second film, Swinburne’s Pasiphae, Reid Kelley adapts the Victorian poet Algernon Charles Swinburne’s dramatic
fragment Pasiphae to tell the unlikely story of the Minotaur’s conception. Unpublished during Swinburne’s lifetime,
probably due to its shocking sexual theme, the poem stages an interaction between master artisan Daedalus and the
Minotaur’s mother, the bewitched Minoan Queen Pasiphae, who is cursed with an insatiable wish to mate with a beautiful
bull. Symbolizing, respectively, reckless creative power and the torment of unfulfilled desire, Daedalus and Pasiphae
indelibly dramatize the complex collaboration of artist and audience.
In The Thong of Dionysus – the final installment of her Minotaur trilogy—the artist revives and revises ancient characters
such as the Minotaur, Dionysus, and Ariadne. By participating in this cyclical refreshment of myth, Reid Kelley performs
a ritual repetition echoed in the multiple meanings of her distinctive pun-filled narratives.
w finds the god of wine and three Maenads polemicizing on the advantages and nature of drunkenness, while propositioning
Ariadne to join them on the island of Naxos. In the Labyrinth, the hero Priapus hunts the Minotaur, mistakenly falling in
love with the monster’s corpse: “I like a sense of humor in my honey / I love a joke, and you smell funny.” His declaration
of devotion in the Labyrinth, and Ariadne’s attempt to find, in the Maenads’ phrase, “a raisin to live”, unfold a linguistically
seasick tragicomedy of love, abandonment, and death.
The video installation is accompanied by eight photographic portraits of poets, rappers, thinkers and artists whose work
contributed to the artist’s concept of a “Dionysian” writing, manifesting in the film as a dark, shape-shifting wordplay that
collages the tragic and ludic. These portraits, part homage and part caricature, range in time and subject from Euripides
to Lil’ Kim. While they share an emphasis on parody, masking, and costume with The Minotaur Trilogy, the portraits,
photographs of meticulously modeled and painted heads, reveal a cast of specific personalities that contrast with the
film’s symbolic, mythological personae.