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Samuel Beckett
at MCA Denver, Denver, Colorado
Recommendation by Leanne Goebel

The playwright Samuel Beckett, wanted \'Not I,\' a dramatic monologue written in 1972, to work on the nerves of the audience and not their intellect. Curator Adam Lerner seems to have a similar intention. \'Not I\' plays on a continuous loop in the video gallery behind a black curtain. There is a bench upon which a viewer may sit, while in the distance a small screen features actress Billie Whitelaw performing Beckett’s monologue a year after it was written. Whitelaw is completely blacked out in the video. Only her lips, mouth, teeth and tongue are visible. Her speech is quick, pulsing, barely a breath taken in 14 minutes of obscure, fragmented sentences that eventually take the shape of a story. This is an older woman attempting to recount the memory of a traumatic event that she claims did not happen to her, yet is responsible for her ability to emerge as a fully functioning person. The trauma has turned her from a mute into one capable of speech, but speech that no one seems to understand. Lerner tells viewers through wall text: “Though Beckett worked outside the field of visual art, his interest in how human beings attempt to make meaning out of their world speaks directly to the interests of contemporary artists.” The continuous loop of thoughts spoken by the character speaks equally to the ineffectiveness of most contemporary art to actually achieve that meaning.

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