Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Independence Avenue at 7th Street, SW
Lower Level Floor Plan
The Black Box theater showcases rotating exhibitions of contemporary artists who use film or video as their creative medium. Films or videos run continuously.
Jeroen Eisinga (Dutch, b. Delft, 1966; lives and works in the Hague) is known for his short films, video installations, and photographs. He takes performance art to a harrowing level in Springtime (2009–11; silent black-and white 35 mm film, reformatted digitally; 19 min looped). Obviously dangerous and initially hard to watch the artist gradually being enveloped by more than 250,000 bees in the film, this process may also become stressful to consider looking away from—as viewers may feel they are abandoning him. Ultimately, there is something mesmerizing and peculiarly comforting about observing the bees cloak his body, as if they are cooperating to form a living shroud. Although there is no soundtrack, it is easy to imagine what the artist hears and to identify with his plight. Is he suggesting suffering is central to art and at the core of creative expression? In this era of sensationalism, is performance art nothing if not extreme? With its focus on Eisinga’s unflinching, icon-like gaze, the piece at once embraces and rejects conventions of self-portraiture. The artist’s achievement, which took over two years to plan and create, is haunting, but also beautiful.