"So I just want to say I was abused by a black male babysitter at the age of three." This statement is made by a balding and ponytailed white man about 23 minutes into The Task, a film by Leigh Ledare documenting a conference designed for participants to interrogate the social structure of the group itself. The initial close-up while this is being said is on an older African American man.
"Fuck you, Francis," a woman's voice says, but it's unclear who this statement is directed at.
The camera pans the people in the circle while the white man describes his later years of addiction and treatment. Faces register a range of reactions—everything from shock to a deep and visible disinterest in his claim to victimhood. After checking his phone, the older African American man ultimately ends up being the guy's rescuer by acknowledging how individual vulnerabilities might make people feel like a minority within the group. We never learn why it was necessary for the white guy to describe his abuser's skin color.
Watching The Task is like watching a live version of any number of Twitter conversations these days where everyone has the same goal: to be heard. This is the urgent desire of every one of us who has been traumatized in some way—which is to say, almost everybody, as evidenced in the growing chorus of #MeToos.
Group Therapy, a group show of international artists at the Frye Art Museum, was timely when it opened in mid-September, and became more so after Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Many survivors are being put through the grinder of either processing long-suppressed memories for the first time or reprocessing events we'd thought were finally put behind us.
In terms of therapeutic modalities, the exhibition explores an even balance of more difficult psychological work and somewhat "lighter" practices. The intensity of group dynamics in The Task and Liz Magic Laser's politically charged video Primal Speech represent the former, while the ecstatic dancing in Joachim Koester's black-and-white films and Shana Moulton's mixed-media installation that is equal parts homage to and critique of California-white-lady-spirituality demonstrate the latter.
Between the work on view and the various activities offered throughout the duration of the exhibition (such as palm readings and sound baths), the exhibition succeeds in its aim to offer a free "clinic" for the community.
I recommend signing up to do Pedro Reyes's meditative The Museum of Hypothetical Lifetimes for a surprising reexamination of your life. A seemingly benign exercise modeled on sand therapy, you select objects from a case and place them in quadrants representing phases of your life. I placed an apple to represent knowledge in the "A Career" quadrant. I realized later that I chose a translucent clear apple over a red plastic one. Does it mean anything? I don't know. But I'm still thinking about it.