Kaucyila Brooke is an artist based in Los Angeles. Brooke’s multidisciplinary practice addresses the politics of cultural production and sexual representation. In diverse narrativized and serial formats—including large-scale photomontages, photo novellas, and photographic archives—she reevaluates the status of the photograph as object. In Tit for Twat, an ongoing photomontage series Brooke began in 1993 that recodes the biblical creation myth of Genesis, she restages the narrative with reference to lesbian sexual identity. Pursuing a structural approach that is inherently allegorical, the work opens upon a range of interpretation brought about by the juxtaposition of disparate photographic fragments.
Brooke also investigates strategies of knowledge production in institutions, urban structures, and the private sphere, analyzing the ways in which Enlightenment thought invented, revised, collected, and displayed their curiosity about science, the body, art, and nature. In Vitrinen in Arbeit (2002–2005), an extensive photographic archive documenting the changing exhibition strategies in the Natural History Museum in Vienna, she captures the conflicted beauty of these spaces. Her artist book Vitrinen in Arbeit, consisting of 145 unique photographs from the series, was published with Michael Dawson Gallery, Los Angeles in 2004. An additional catalogue Vitrinen in Arbeit (2008), with texts by Christiane Stahl and David Joselit, accompanied her solo show at the Alfred Ehrhadt Foundation (Schaden Verlag, Cologne). In Alma Mater (2009), a five channel video installation, women scholars and artists enact a feminist peripatetic pedagogy as they walk through the 19th century arcades of the University of Vienna populated by the busts of 154 male scientists and scholars. In Brooke’s performative slide lecture Where Does the Venus Come From? (2009, 2015) as Dr. Julia Savage, she discusses the unknown origins of the pre-historic figurine known as the Venus von Willendorf and traces the 19th century’s masculinist bias in such academic sciences as anthropology and archeology.
Often based on archival research, many of Brooke’s projects focus on the recoding of the photographic genres of portraiture, still life, documentary reportage, and landscape. In Brooke’s series, Kathy Acker’s Clothes (1999–2004), she constructs a posthumous portrait of the late American experimental poet, writer, and feminist by photographing selected items from Acker’s personal wardrobe. In The Boy Mechanic (1996–ongoing), she documents a social history of lesbian bars by photographing their present and former locations in cities such as San Diego, Cologne, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. In 1990, she and Jane Cottis also co-produced the feature length videotape Dry Kisses Only, which uses manipulated film, clips and the humorous commentary of Theory Woman to explore the lesbian subtext in classic Hollywood films.
Brooke has edited the book Gendered Geographies (Hochschule fur Gestaltung und Kunst Zürich, 2002) which is a collection of essays and artworks exploring the historical and cultural associations of sexuality and space including works by Pia Lanzinger, Dorit Margreiter, The Toxic Titties and essays by Catherine Lord, Leslie Dick and Matias Viegener.
Brooke’s work has been shown in a number of international galleries and institutions, including solo exhibitions at Commonwealth and Council, Los Angeles, (2013, 2010); The Badischer Kunstverein, Karlsruhe, Germany (2012); Galerie Andreas Huber, Vienna (2006, 2008, 2012); Silberkuppe, Berlin (2009); Alfred Ehrhardt Foundation/ Forum für Fotographie, Cologne; Andersen-s Contemporary, Copenhagen, (2006), NAK, Aachen, Germany; Kunstverein Springhornhof, Neuenkirchen, Germany (2005); plattform, Berlin (2004), Art Resources Transfer, New York (2001,1999).
Recent group exhibitions include Blühendes Gift / Prosperous Poison, Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig, Vienna (2016) Reines Wasser, Lentos Kunstmuseum Linz, Austria (2014) White Columns Annual, White Columns, New York, NY (2013) Wearing Skirts: The Staging of Clothes in Contemporary Photography, Museum der Moderne, Salzburg, Austria (2012); Bucharest Biennale for Contemporary Art, Romania (2010); This Side of Paradise: Body and Landscape in Los Angeles Photographs, The Huntington, San Marino, CA (2008) Oh Girl It's A Boy, Munich Kunstverein, Munich, Germany; The California Files, CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco, CA (2007), The Eighth Square - Gender Life and Desire in the Visual Arts since 1960, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany; Why Pictures Now?, Museum of Moderner Kunst, Vienna, Austria(2006); The Berlin Biennale 3, Germany (2004).
Kaucyila Brooke has been a regular faculty member of the Program in Photography and Media at CalArts since 1992, and served as Program Director (1999 –2004) and Program Co-Director (1994-1999, 2013-2015).