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Dave McKenzie’s got some jokes. Whether working in performance, installation, or an assortment of other media, the Brooklyn-based artist has a penchant for dry, absurdist humor. This, combined with his methodical approach, often lends a poignancy to his interventions upon the everyday. Take, for example, “Futuro,” a 2013 inkjet print featuring a pair of hands (presumably the artist’s own) gently grasping a box advertising a bedpan. Held up against an Instagram-ready chartreuse backdrop, the item’s slick packaging is rendered all the more absurd in isolation; its titular gesture towards futurity becomes almost mocking in its banality.

“I really wanted to make an image that is unspectacular,” McKenzie once explained of This ship would set sail, even anchored as it was, a slow-moving, text-based performance presented at the 1:54 art fair in 2013. Delivered in his signature understated style, this same sentiment could be readily applied to Disturbing the View, his forthcoming performance commissioned by the Whitney Museum.

Dave McKenzie, still from “Edward and Me” (2000), video, color, sound, 4:29 min (image courtesy the artist)

Unfolding across the museum’s facade every Friday and Saturday afternoon starting May 1, Disturbing the View is inspired by the “squeegee men” of New York City — those predominantly Black and brown workers who used to spring into action at local stoplights in the ‘80s and ‘90s, ready to whisk the faintest trace of dust or grime from your windshield for a small fee, whether you wanted them to or not. McKenzie’s performance will draw upon long-running themes for the artist — endurance, repetition, humor, and exhaustion — and will be presented in tandem with The Story I Tell Myself, his first solo museum exhibition in New York, curated by Adrienne Edwards with Mia Matthias.

As Edwards explained during the press preview, McKenzie will use the Whitney’s facade as a “canvas for a choreographed disruption of the institution’s daily rhythms.” By employing his own body, the artist’s project likewise aims to draw attention to forms of labor — and the bodies performing them — that are typically rendered invisible. As is often the case for McKenzie, here the body becomes a tool for unsettling our expectations, both inside and outside of institutions.

When: May 1–June 12, Fridays and Saturdays at 1pm
Where: Outside at the Whitney Museum of American Art (99 Gansevoort Street, Meatpacking, Manhattan); museum tickets not required

More info at the Whitney Museum of American Art

Dessane Lopez Cassell

Dessane Lopez Cassell is Hyperallergic's reviews editor. Outside of the office, she also works as a curator, writer, and film programmer. You can follow her work here.

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