Janice Gomez, Singular renditions where grass is just as green, 8 x 10 inch framed digital print, stool, handheld mirror, doppelgänger, dimensions variable. Work included in Ancient History, curated by Nathan Bockelman, PØST, July 29, 2011.
Leave it to Janice Gomez. When asked to contribute a work to Nathan Bockelman’s Ancient History, a group show centered around the idea of the doppelgänger, Gomez did no less than summon her own doppelgänger from the mists and employ her as a medium in the work. As Gomez has often said to me, “I don’t do anything half-assed.”
Destiny definitely had a role to play in the process. Gomez’s original idea, similar to a project Bruce Conner once proposed and also never realized, was to contact every Janice Gomez she could find on Facebook and get at least some of them to come to the show, maybe do some kind of activity together. But she did not get a single response from any Janice Gomez, which forced her to concoct a Plan B on the fly. In between teaching classes one day, she hopped onto the internet for about 15 minutes and posted the following ad on craigslist, with no accompanying photo:
She received exactly one response, from a woman named Jean Garcia (note same initials as Gomez’s). Garcia is a singer who likes to scan craigslist from time to time for interesting gigs, and this interested her. She got in touch and suggested they meet up at LACMA because she lives close by. Coincidentally or not, Gomez sometimes works at LACMA.
Gomez describes their meeting as highly unsettling, with each JG regarding the other suspiciously. After all, you are supposed to kill your doppelgänger if you ever see her, and these two looked and acted just enough alike to freak each other out. Garcia was proactive and made her own karaoke track to accompany her singing on “Only You.” The deal was struck.
The way I experienced this performance was absolutely the perfect way to experience it. I had just arrived at the gallery and was busy chatting with some people. I hadn’t looked at the art or the checklist, so I didn’t have a clue as to what Gomez’s piece consisted of. All of a sudden I heard a woman start to sing. Everyone in the room quieted down to watch her. She was sitting on a stool with her back facing us, a mirror in her hand. On the wall in front of her was a photograph of Gomez blindfolded. As she sang the Platters’ croony paean to ideal love, she would gesticulate and look into the mirror, making eye contact with anyone she could see in there, which was mainly me.
She wore a dress that looked just like something Gomez would wear. Her hair, from the rear, looked just like Gomez’s hair. Her skin tone matched Gomez’s exactly. Her voice was also a good approximation. I assumed it was Gomez, but then I’d catch a glimpse of her eyes in the mirror and see variations that confused me. Had Janice added white highlights to her hair since the last time I saw her? Was she wearing different makeup? Was that her identical cousin or something? I never saw her full face in the mirror so it was a perfect tease.
Afterwards the doppelgänger piece was explained to me and my mind proceeded to blow out of my ears. I went to chat briefly with Jean and found that she sounded a lot like Janice when she talked, which was eerie as hell. We stared at each other uneasily for a little while before Jean announced that she had an early flight to catch and had to leave. The situation felt supernaturally awkward, like a wormhole had opened up and we were standing in the foyer of Bizarro World right before the wormhole was to close again.
I don’t believe that Jean and Janice will be staying in touch following this performance; if they did, they’d have to kill each other. The real JG appeared in the gallery shortly after the other one left, mainly as a show of support to the other artists. But really, as I told her, she should’ve stayed away and never showed her face in order for the performance to truly be complete.