Many are the authorities at whose mercy we live: corporate, medical, digital, governmental. The phrase misleads, because there is no mercy there, as explored by Wallace Cavanaugh. The video “Joe wants eggs” tells the story of Cavanaugh’s great-uncle Joe, whose terminal cancer was most likely caused by x-rays Joe’s mother, Cavanaugh’s great-grandmother, underwent while sick with pneumonia during her pregnancy. In “You’re killing us,” a video collage, connections are drawn between the opioid crisis, as manufactured by Purdue Pharma, and Superfund sites throughout the country. “Sovereignty and the Body” creates imitation Polaroids of individuals captured—often unknowingly, always non-consensually—by Google Earth as it passed them by, on its journey to survey every street the world over. In the face of such immense, intractable systems, most of us just throw up our hands. Cavanaugh, instead, uses their hands to enact care: crocheting a frying pan of bacon and eggs while Joe’s story is being told (it’s a meal he wished for and was denied, an incident that has long haunted Cavanaugh’s grandmother); noticing those anonymous souls on Google Earth and giving them their due.
—Lori Waxman 10/13/2023 1:26 PM