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Artists overwrite the self in 'Program/Suffer/Abstain/Deprogram'

A group show with a Stoic heart

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Reader contributor Bert Stabler took his inspiration for "Program/Suffer/Abstain/Deprogram" from Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus, who proposed that we detach ourselves from "things that are not up to us." Stabler notes that detachment isn't a "neutral absence but a positive refusal," and that to abstain from suffering, for instance, is to "refuse to live." He's filled a gallery at Harold Washington College with work by various artists that he says is about "erasing and overwriting onself, negatively and positively." There's more overwriting than erasing: P/A/S/D is filled with themes of repetition, doubling, and recursion, with things constantly in process.

One of my favorite installations is an iPod on which Matthew Joynt screens YouTube clips of an untold number of people covering a single line from the Lisa Loeb song "Stay (I Missed You)." "And I thought I'd live forever, but now I'm not so sure," they sing, one after another—a clever comment on the ways in which people make and remake themselves (and, in this case, a song) on the Internet. Liz McCarthy's untitled work pairs a painting of a face that's been poked by a nail with a table; there's a nail on the table, and viewers are urged to "please imitate poking." Jacob C. Hammes offers three works side by side, each one a Where's Waldo?-like collage consisting of multiple, overlapping images: bones in Bones, wolves in Wolf, red snakes in Red Snake. Chris Santiago's Yesterday Today Tomorrow echoes Felix Gonzalez-Torres's 1991 Untitled (Perfect Lovers), an AIDS-influenced meditation on mortality that features two dial-faced clocks side by side. In Santiago's version one digital clock is set 24 hours ahead and another 24 hours back; the absence of a clock showing the current time suggests that you need to figure today out for yourself.

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