ARTFORUM Critic's Pick: Tania Franco Klein

January 4, 2020

Annabel Osberg
2 JANUARY 2020

Tania Franco Klein,  Toaster  (Self-portrait), from  Our Life in the Shadows , 2016

Tania Franco Klein, Toaster (Self-portrait), from Our Life in the Shadows, 2016

Popular culture often conflates travel with personal development. But if the lone wanderers in Tania Franco Klein’s photographs were hoping for self-discovery, they appear to have gotten lost in non-places, presumably still in the present day but replete with nostalgic affectations. Franco Klein titled this show “Proceed to the Route,” after the command some GPS applications paradoxically give to users who have strayed off course. Photographs and wallpaper installations from various bodies of work are juxtaposed in unexpected configurations, evoking split-screen disjunctions.

Franco Klein’s stagings are redolent of commercial photography, or perhaps more Hitchcockian and Lynchian film stills, as her subjects’ glamour is matched by their malaise. Although many of the photographs are self-portraits, the artist suppresses her identity—donning wigs and retro fashions, obscuring herself with shadows and props—to make room for the enigmatic, anonymous characters she plays. Many of her poses suggest exhaustion, unconsciousness, even death. In Yellow Tiles (Self-Portrait), 2017, she appears behind a shower door, her face and body blurred by the textured glass as if she were an apparition.

The source of her protagonists’ discomfort is invisible, but motifs of bathrooms, beds, and vintage appliances offer hints. The toaster in Toaster (Self-Portrait), 2016, reflects a woman’s head resting on a table, as though she had collapsed while preparing breakfast. Even as technology progresses, everyday life grows increasingly arduous in a society that devalues individuals while expecting them to perform. Two GIFs shown on old televisions most succinctly encapsulate the feeling of being trapped in an endless loop of ungratifying obligations: In Breathe, 2019, a woman hyperventilates into a paper bag, besieged by a panic attack that never advances yet never retreats.

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