September 15th, 2020

Alex Bag, Jason Yates at von ammon co

Artists: Alex Bag, Jason Yates

Venue: von ammon co, Washington DC

Exhibition Title: I’m Sorry You All Ended up Here

Date: August 26 – September 26, 2020

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Full gallery of images, press release and link available after the jump.



Alex Bag and Jason Yates, Untitled (I’m Sorry You All Ended up Here) 8/20, 2020 digital video 17:00 loop (excerpt)

Alex Bag and Jason Yates, Untitled (I’m Sorry You All Ended up Here) 8/20, 2020 digital video 17:00 loop (excerpt)

Alex Bag, Untitled, 2020, digital video 41:38 loop (excerpt)

Images courtesy of von ammon co, Washington DC

Press Release:

I always feel surprised when I learn that someone is frightened of dolls. It could just be that I myself am so fond of them, but it seems sort of silly to imagine that a Madame Alexander ice skater could ever strike the chords of terror with any accuracy. The technical term for this particular anxiety is pediophobia, which stems etymologically from the Greek paidion and translates literally to the phrase “dread of little children.” It is maybe helpful to think of dolls as little little children, extra small imitations of life that simulate the general contours of the human body, but cannot help but reveal the radical totality of their emptiness (ie: deadness). It is this mortal void, I suppose, that imbues the little little child with the power to spook, and perhaps the pediophobe’s fear stems not from scaled down limbs or the unheimlich blush of a porcelain cheek, but rather from a suspicion that the static figure is afforded a lifetime of opportunities to consolidate its resentment.

People are afraid of clown dolls, they are afraid of whispering Raggedy Anns and Andys, they recoil from the pouting silicone toddlers who stare dully into the middle distance with murder on their minds. Though a wild-eyed Annabelle or the clickety-clacking jaw of an unmanned dummy might strike fear in the heart of the pediophobe, they pale in comparison to what I will suggest with great confidence is the scariest doll story in the history of America. This story comes to us not from a horror movie or the antique notebooks of a dubious paranormal investigator, but rather courtesy of a middle-aged x-ray technician who had a taste for arts and crafts and a profound misunderstanding of the word “deceased.”

It was in a Key West medical clinic in the spring of 1930 that radiologist Carl Tanzler first encountered Maria “Elena” Milagro de Hoyos, a beautiful but gravely ill young Cuban woman who had lost most of her immediate family to a particularly virulent strain of tuberculosis. Convinced that she was the physical manifestation of a vision he’d once had of his soul-mate, Tanzler immediately dedicated himself to curing her with an aggressive course of x-ray treatments. Elena’s death in 1931 came as a terrible shock to Tanzler, who suddenly found himself exiled from this unrequited fantasy, cast out of his imaginary Eden by the swinging scythe of the reaper.

Though Elena’s family likely found the intensity of Tanzler’s grief inappropriate, they agreed to allow him to pay for her funeral and accepted when he offered to build a mausoleum so that there might be a permanent site at which to remember her short life. While the careful observer may have noticed that Carl frequently visited Elena’s grave, it took nearly a decade for anyone to realize that he had actually emptied it. In 1933, Tanzler staged a late-night disinterment. He used a small wagon to transport the body to his house, where he set himself to reconstructing what was left of Elena so that the body might more closely resemble the person it had once been. Tanzler painstakingly reconnected disarticulated bones with piano wire, he stuffed her chest cavity with perfumed rags, he set a pair of glass eyes into skin made of plaster and waxed silk. Once satisfied with his handiwork, Tanzler lived quite happily with this bizarre approximation of life for nearly a decade, sleeping and dancing with the body until his indiscretions eventually resulted in his arrest.

Link: Alex Bag, Jason Yates at von ammon co

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