Usurpation, extrapolation, exaggeration, flattery—duplicitous tactics deployed in order to gain power—are central to Aristophanes’ The Birds: men pretend to pass as birds, and birds pretend to pass as gods. Peisthetaerus, the protagonist, rises to power not only by making a travesty of consensus, but also by making others pass for what they are not.
Deception and manipulation are also at the core of David Levine’s new conceptual art project, Some of the People, All of the Time, which explores what it means for a democracy to manufacture consent or discord. The project draws on the human instinct to join together—to gather, to watch, to share, to participate, to socialize, even to protest, but prompts a disturbing realization: what if a member of such a gathering is not there for hope or with sincerity, but is there as someone’s agent, surrogate, or catspaw? With alarming frequency, digital and physical fake crowds are being used to influence and discredit the will of the people. For thousands of years a basic political endgame has been to avoid tyranny—allegorized beautifully in Aristophanes’ The Birds—yet we continue to bear witness to repeated attacks by bad-faith players exploiting the democratic process.
Addressing issues of human identity, agency, and labor through the figure of the actor, David Levine: Some of the People, All of the Time deploys our suspicion of the actor—a professional who gets paid to feel—to examine the political and emotional underpinnings of our present moment. The centerpiece of the project is a new dramatic text materialized by a rotating cast for the duration of the exhibition. Facing a series of “fake persons” drawn from the real world, visitors will wrestle firsthand not only with the crisis of believing what you see, but saying what you mean.
David Levine’s work encompasses performance, theater, video and photography. His performance and exhibition work have been presented by Creative Time, MoMA, REDCAT, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, Mass MoCA, PS1, PS122 the Watermill Center, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and has been featured in Artforum, Frieze, Theater, TDR, PAJ, The New Yorker, and The New York Times.
The performance will be viewable on Thursdays between 2 and 9 pm, and on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays between 1 and 6 pm. On first Saturdays (June 2 and July 7), it will be performed between 2 and 9 pm. It lasts approximately 45 minutes. Performances are not timed, ticketed, or seated; visitors may enter and exit the gallery freely during all Museum hours, including Wednesdays.
David Levine: Some of the People, All of the Time is organized by the Brooklyn Museum and co-presented with the Onassis Cultural Center New York as part of Birds: A Festival Inspired by Aristophanes. It is curated by Sara Softness, Assistant Curator, Special Projects, Brooklyn Museum.
Please check Brooklyn Museum website for visitor information.