Polaroids by Emma Bee Bernstein

May 24 – June 25, 2012 (EXTENDED TO JULY 2)
Curated by Phong Bui
Opening Reception Thursday, May 24, 6-9pm

Microscope Gallery is very pleased to present Exquisite Fucking Boredom, Polaroid images by artist/writer Emma Bee Bernstein (1985-2008). With intimate as well as often staged photographs of the artist and her close friends, Bernstein – who committed suicide in Venice, Italy at the age of 23 – transforms the spontaneous, on-the-spot Polaroid aesthetic into a generational portrait of hyper-self-conscious, passionately alluring young women and men taking on adulthood with deadly serious abandon. The more than 200 photographs in Exquisite Fucking Boredom were taken during Bernstein’s college years, 2003 to 2007 and have never before been seen. The photographs have been assembled from Bernstein’s personal archive and private diary notebooks, which will also be on view.

Bernstein who earned a BA in Visual Arts and Art History from the University of Chicago writes, “The perfect projection of the internal imagined self, if it exists, only does so for the duration of the photographic performance.” Bernstein is indebted to the photography of Robert Mapplethorpe, Andy Warhol, Robert Frank, Nan Goldin, Francesca Woodman, and Cindy Sherman. Her works are marked by an acute awareness of the fleeting and temporary nature of existence. The Polaroid series are just one of several bodies of photographic works by the artist who also worked with 35mm film and digital formats.

“… [Bernstein’s work] is consistent in tone, with an atmosphere of tension, verging on discomfort though interlaced with humor, and a guardedness that never relaxes.” — Holland Cotter, The New York Times

Bernstein’s short film Exquisite Fucking Boredom (2006) also will be shown during the course of the exhibit. And, film-maker Henry Hills will preview on June 18 a new 80-minute version of Emma’s Dilemma, a film that documents Bernstein’s adolescent years (1997-2002), and features her conversations with Carolee Schneemann, Jackson Mac Low, Ken Jacobs, Richard Foreman, Keith Sanborn, Lee Ann Brown, Susan Howe, Kenneth Goldsmith, and others.

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EMMA BEE BERNSTEIN’s works have been previously exhibited in solo shows at the University of Chicago and Janet Kurnatowski Gallery in New York. Her work has also exhibited at A.I.R. Gallery, NYC, the Smart Museum, Chicago, and at the University of Nevada, Reno. Her book GirlDrive: Criss-Crossing America, Redefining Feminism, co-authored with Nona Willis Aronowitz, was published by Seal Press in 2009. Belladonna #4, which features her writing and photographs, was published in 2009.


PHONG BUI is an artist, writer, independent curator (curatorial advisor at MoMA PS1 2007 – 2010) and publisher of The Brooklyn Rail.

All images are courtesy of the Estate of Emma Bee Bernstein © 2007

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