Art review: Natasa Prosenc’s video ‘Mud’ at Ruth Bachofner Gallery


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‘Mud,’ Natasa Prosenc’s short video at Ruth Bachofner, has the absorbing character of a parable, an origin story. It traces an individual’s transformation but also reads as a metaphor for the passage from nature to culture.

The 10-minute piece begins with a tight shot of bubbling, gurgling, viscous gray mud. Within the heaving pool, shapes appear that resemble curves and mounds of the body, and soon a hand is visible. A female figure emerges from the primordial ooze, to the heaving sounds of first breath. Coated entirely in mud, she walks onto shore and across a stretch of desert.


Later, she is lying next to a small body of water. At first, the figure remains one with the earth (and heavily reminiscent of Ana Mendieta’s performative work unifying with the elements), but then she begins to scrape the mud off her skin. Under a plume of water, she washes free of the clay of her birth and walks on. In the final scene, the woman faces us for the first time, and is clothed, having transitioned from emblem to individual, raw to refined.

At one point in the video, the woman takes mud from her body and the ground and shapes it in her hands, forming rough spheres. It’s a passing moment, but powerful in its equation of the substances of earth, life and art, its portrait of the human as instinctual creator.

Prosenc, born in Slovenia and a resident of L.A. for the last dozen years, has engaged the themes of passage and transformation in earlier video installations, and they remain richly poetic springboards for her work. Though this is a small show, comprising just the video and a group of stills mounted on aluminum, it resonates poignantly.

– Leah Ollman

Ruth Bachofner Gallery, Bergamot Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica, (310) 829-3300, through Jan. 2. Closed Sundays and Mondays.

Image: ‘Woman at Mud Volcano,’ 2009. Still from video ‘Mud.’ Credit: Photo Courtesy Ruth Bachofner Gallery.