Cecilia Corrigan, 5’3’’ with a long mane of hair, stands tall in Issue Project Room’s cavernous Beaux-Arts space hawking jokes that read as both shtick and sincere concerns. After three acts of Great Party, Isn’t it, Mom?, which featured multiple personalities probing personal responsibility in the face of a frightening political climate, it becomes clear that the artist’s mode of production edges the nebulous zone where character and personal realities collide. Great Party, Isn’t it, Mom? was a collaboration with musician James Ilgenfritz and mixed rhapsodic topical commentary and slapstick physical comedy with a screening of the artist’s web series Motherland, which dramatizes Hillary Clinton attending group therapy with her fictional children.
While her slapstick in many ways seems like a throwback to silent films stars like Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, Corrigan updates it to our times. There’s a defensive urge to Corrigan’s performance: she’s going to make fun of herself before you can. But, by foregrounding slapstick gags, Corrigan’s work transcends self-deprecating comedy, instead examining the feedback loop of how we self-realize and how we are seen, with particular attention to degenerating political narratives to interrogate the political status of upper middle class white women.
This performance occurred before the 2016 election results, but in retrospect, the over-the-top Weimar–era antics that lead to her prancing about the stage in a fur coat and fake eyelashes feel particularly prescient. At one point in the performance Corrigan suggested to the audience that because of their collective apathy, they deserved the coming fascist future. When the artist presents the culmination of her episodic work as an artist in residence at Issue Project Room this Saturday evening, it will be fascinating to see how she decides to now appeal to our individual responsibility as audience members and citizens.
Whitney Mallett is a writer and filmmaker with a background in dance. Her writing has been published by The New York Times, Art in America, ArtForum, CURA, Pin-Up, among others, and she's a contributing editor at Topical Cream.