2nd Year Reviews: Sam Meador by Mary Skrenta

If you were searching for Sam Meador’s work in a library catalog, you would most likely find it by using the keywords frustration and futility and sarcasm. Under this umbrella theme I see all of Sam’s current performance based work as a unified whole, but I would divide her most recent works into two categories: serious and playful. Generally speaking, Sam performs arbitrary and seemingly meaningless tasks that are extremely difficult or taxing on the body, or performs almost embarrassingly funny, sarcastic quasi-dance performances. While these two categories may seem superficially paradoxical, to me they fall under the theme of frustration. The physically demanding feats of futility exemplify active frustration while her humorous performances demonstrate implied frustration.

In her Bungee Ladder performance, Sam, suited up in helmet and safety goggles, attempts to climb a ladder made of bungee cords. We watch as the ladder keeps snapping apart and Sam continues to try to climb it, over and over and over again. Similarly in Tangled, we watch Sam entangle herself hopelessly in ropes strung up to the ceiling and spin herself into a frustrating web. Throughout all of her work, we wince as she is hurt, snapped by bungee cords, hair caught and pulled in ropes, back breaking as she bends over picking up tennis balls she continues to spill and pick up again and again. While the work is not predominantly about physical pain, we are reminded through it of the painful frustration in the mandatory performance of life’s frustrating tasks: the bullshit we must struggle helplessly and painfully through in order to get to the good stuff. And the good stuff is evident in the restraint Sam shows by stopping before the point of complete exhaustion. By leaving just a hint of breathing room at the end, Sam tells us hope is not lost. We can catch our breath and persevere, perhaps even succeed in finding joy.

Bungee Ladder

Tangled

This joy is also evident in her counter, more playful pieces like Google Eyes. In this piece Sam, fitted in a flesh colored unitard embellished with a body length wave of google eyes, dances to the song “Private Eyes” by Hall and Oates. By “dances” I mean she comically moves around, quite sarcastically, all the while exaggerating hand and arm gestures with two ridiculously enormous google eyes strapped to her palms and a deadpan expression on her face. The outfit, gestures, props and music are so ridiculous that one cannot escape the dripping sarcasm. The sarcasm seems to be a response to Sam’s frustration with the world she is forced to deal with. A world full of meaningless, mundane, futile tasks; the ones she performs on video as well as in life. In this way the playful videos are directly linked to the serious ones, even though they may superficially seem disconnected at first.

I see Sam’s current work not necessarily as a series, but as a unified body of work centered around the concept of frustration.

To learn more about Sam’s work and her process please visit http://sameador.blogspot.com/

As part of the second-year graduates’ Thesis Projects I course, candidates were each assigned two of their cohort to review. As students begin writing their thesis papers and constructing artist statements, this review process proves to be beneficial twofold. Students not only exercise their written critique skills, but are able to read about their own project from other voices. Over the next few weeks we’ll be posting these reviews, so be sure to visit regularly for insights and photos of the second years’ progress!

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