by Mary Rechner

This video-based survey of A.L. Steiner’s work includes “You will never ever be a woman,” “C.L.U.E. (color location ultimate experience),” “Extended Paintbrush (Yves Klein),” and “Swift Path to Glory.”  Predatory sexuality/environmental degradation/consumerism is set next to freedom/fluidity/complexity of desire and gender identity.

Steiner’s work feels like another step alongside nonlinear journeys taken by artists such as Nan Goldin, Marina Abramovic, David Wojnarowicz, Kara Walker, and Steve Paxton.  Steiner is political and playful, part Guerilla Girl, part Merry Prankster.

“Extended Paintbrush (Yves Klein)” is a video of five naked women and one naked man moving in front of Yves Klein paintings.  It’s as if all the nudes in the museum have escaped to these galleries to dance and touch outside their confining frames.

Dance vocabulary plays a big part in “C.L.U.E.” too, as does fashion, music and landscape.  The pop 80’s feel of this video is buoyant, joyful, though the constantly shifting scenery/setting communicates insecurity/instability.

“Swift Path to Glory” features diverse actors reading a script about the construction of masculinity, as well as vulnerability (ties to mother).  Always beyond the actor at the microphone is a view of the street.  At the end, the actor is in a storefront window on display.

“You will never be a woman,” is an intimate, complicated dialogue exploring desire, dreams, gender identity, abuse, the abject, and the way human beings internalize and externalize hatred; it reminded me of Jean Genet’s “The Maids.”  The actors are alternately sad, playful, funny, mean, kind, loving, hateful, and self-hating.  The piece feels both scripted and improvised, too-close-for comfort, haunting, mesmerizing; I’m still thinking about it.

Mary Rechner is the author of Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women.  She lives in Portland.