Karen Finley – Sext Me If You Can

“We cannot control the State, but we can control and open up…possibility within us. We need to recognize ourselves and give permission [to ourselves to] create our own authority.” – Karen Finley

Sext Me If You Can was an interactive performance based out of Karen Finley’s studio in New York and the bathroom of the Airbnb location for the exhibition Tell Me What You Have And I Will Know What You Are (17-21 August, 2016). Finley created personalised paintings inspired by the sexts that participants sent her before shipping it to them.

Sext Me If You Can has had many lives. In 2012, Finley set up shop at the Miami Project Art Fair in Coagula Curatorial’s booth for a two day duration and the resultant works were then displayed in the gallery’s basement post-performance. It was then shown at the New Museum, New York, as a part of NEA 4 in Residence. In previous iterations of this work, Finley has engaged in institutional economic and exhibitionary frameworks in order to examine innovative and sustainable livelihoods for contemporary art practitioners. In this instalment, Finley forwent the institutional framework altogether by engaging directly with her participants, and a small community, in an offsite exhibition. Although Finley was not physically present, she was intermittently (and selectively) available online – soliciting engagement with concepts of ‘transmission’ and technologically enabled social intervention from the other side of the world.

Drawing on the long history of the body and figure composition in painting and traditional art contexts, Finley’s performance approached concepts of artistic agency and representation – blurring traditional distinctions between intimacy, eroticism, art and market, which became further abstracted by technology.