The title of the exhibition is inspired by Mishka Henner’s 2015 video I’m Not the Only One, in which Henner digitally combines 18 videos sourced from YouTube. In it Henner has combined individual videos of people, alone in their bedrooms and makeshift studios, performing Sam Smith’s hit song of the same title. Stitched together, these solo performances transform the song’s lonely angst into a powerful yet immaterial chorus of solidarity and connection. Ironically, the current Covid-19 climate has treated us to a myriad of similar choirs from around the world, intentionally singing alone together. Henner’s prescient piece, envisioned long before a global sheltered-in-place reality, takes on a new layer of meaning today.
Other works in the first gallery explore the pull between being alone and being part of something larger. In Alec Soth’s 2013 photograph a lone figure seems to dance across an empty expanse of concrete on the Facebook campus, emphasizing solitude and physical distance in contrast with the internet’s promise of ubiquitous connection. And in Katy Grannan’s 2018 image Schatzi, Gerlach, Nevada, a woman holds her wine glass over a backyard fence in a gesture that simultaneously juxtaposes neighborliness with isolation.
In the second gallery, Nan Goldin’s French Chris on the convertible, NYC, 1979, presents a figure lost in his own swoon, suggesting an ecstatic kind of solitude. Also on view are images that alternately highlight the physical and emotional space between subjects. In Richard Misrach’s Boy Scouts, Pyramid Lake Indian Reservation, Nevada, 1991, children stand in waist-deep water, dispersed in an arrangement that suggests the complexity of adolescent friendships. Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller’s interactive piece was inspired by a time when the couple was apart, and often talked by phone. In it, a vintage telephone has been installed in the gallery. Picking up the receiver, a woman’s voice recounts her disjointed dream.
Christian Marclay’s seminal 1995 video Telephones is the gravitational force in the final room of the exhibition. This skillfully edited arrangement of clips from movies shows people using telephones the way they were originally intended to be used: dialing, ringing, greeting, and listening. The carefully sequenced fragments coalesce into a conversation between speakers who never seem to connect. In the same room, Johnnie Chatman’s series I Forgot Where We Were… depicts the artist alone in the grand vistas of the West. Set in the romantic and expansive American landscape, Chatman’s silhouette presents a stark image of individuality and isolation.
This unprecedented time of social distance has upended many of the usual ways we find connection while underscoring that which we truly value. The intention of this exhibition is to bring us together and to acknowledge our connectedness in a world that can sometimes feel broken apart.
I’m Not The Only One
Exhibition Dates: September 8 – October 24, 2020
49 Geary Street
San Francisco, CA