SC13: With Love, From MabelDecember 14, 2010
Upon entering the thirty-seven-thousand-square-foot San Francisco Antique and Design Mall (SFADM), a visitor is visually accosted by a cacophony of objects, reflecting a range of styles and eras. SC13, an ongoing exhibition curated by the Post Brothers and Chris Fitzpatrick that is located in one of the antique mall’s showcases, utilizes the mall's haphazard and disjointed methods of display to question the ways an object's meaning shifts when it is removed from its original context or is juxtaposed against an array of disparate items.
Within this setting, it comes as no surprise to stumble upon Lauren Marsden's With Love, From Mabel (2010), a live performance presented in conjunction with SC13. Marsden's Mabel Ray persona, a ghost-like character dressed in 1930s evening wear, departs from the same antique table at 2:30 p.m. every other Sunday to wander through the grounds of the mall.1 Stopping periodically to reminisce when something catches her attention, she seems absentminded and distant, as if speaking to herself while recounting fictionalized memories based on the antiques. Mabel's path, her choice of objects, and her musings change from performance to performance, but the "tour" always ends at SC13's display case with her saying, "With love, from Mabel." In keeping with the simultaneity of the objects presented for sale in the SFADM, Mabel's narrative drifts fluidly between decades and centuries as she moves within the mall.
While SC13’s overall objective is to intervene in business as usual in the mall, Mabel’s performances operates differently. On the day I attended, shoppers barely took notice of Mabel’s fluid interaction with the objects. If they were within earshot of her narration, they would often listen for a bit before continuing with their business. As a performance, however, Marsden's piece elegantly draws attention to the aura of history that gives these antiques their value. With Love, From Mabel implicitly references the role aura plays in the production of meaning and value that are ascribed to mass-produced and decorative objects.
SC13 is on view at the San Francisco Antique and Design Mall through February 1, 2011.
Noah Krell works with photography, video, and performance. He is an MFA candidate at the California College of the Arts.