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In one sense, Kathryn Cornelius staged an Oscar-worthy event with “Recognition”. Champagne bubbled and camera flashes flared as the artist, dressed in a stunning gown and decked out in jewels, spoke from a dais to the crowd. For their part, local artists and artists boosters dressed up for the evening—though it’s not clear that they gussied up specifically for Cornelius’s opening-night performance. After Cornelius’s multimedia presentation, a camera crew trolled the audience, interviewing people about their feelings on the art fair.
The only things missing were the recognition event and, frankly, the Oscar-worthy performance. Cornelius’s performance was produced very well: With a natural red carpet, she re-created a buzz-worthy reception. As she spoke about how much the community had grown, heaping praise on artists, collectors, and critics, Cornelius was interrupted again and again by Cornelius—remote pseudo–satellite feeds of the artist playing a variety of characters. Chakra-centric mystic Cornelius and Soho-bound bunny Cornelius each phoned in. When they could be heard, her funny clips were received warmly by the festive audience. Still, Cornelius is no actress, and she didn’t play to her strengths.
The durational performance style for which she’s becoming known never made an appearance. Though she read aloud an encyclopedic definition of performance art—seemingly to tax and test a crowd who had ostensibly assembled at the fair in the name of art—she ended her speech before anyone sincerely wished that the orchestra would cut her off. (There wasn’t actually an orchestra.) It’s clever to stage a recognition for a non-event. After all, no artists or curators brought the fair to the District—only the art market and Convention Center can take credit for that. But the performances themselves were executed in a way that made the piece, despite its good production, seem provincial.