reviews > Knoxville, TN

Briena Harmening
Briena Harmening

4 April 2008 7:55 PM
The Art Gallery of Knoxville

The deep discomforts on view everywhere in Briena Harmening’s multimedia practice are both physical and emotional, inseparably and unmistakably so. If the inclusion of text like “stop more lube” and “she’s full of excuses” doesn’t make this clear enough, then phrases such as “my vagina shrank without estrogen” spell it out with a no-holds-barred directness. But Harmening’s work is never just verse nor is it ever merely literal; she marries material with word such that the pain of her message becomes poetic. Pillowcases and lingerie suggest intimacy, hot glue doubles as sexual lubricant, wooden palettes double as slashed and upturned beds. If most of these works function as aggressive, tactical declarations, lyrical signboards that should and do stand as something to be read, others seem to ask for a different kind of activation, a site-specific one, where viewers or performers are forced to endure the task of sleeping on Harmening’s harsh pillows, eating at her lonely table, and resting in her uncomfortable bed.

—Lori Waxman