Commonwealth and Council


Julie Tolentino


Commonwealth and Council presents REPEATER, Julie Tolentino’s immersive installation incorporating sculpture, video, and 108 hours of performance in a kaleidoscopic vision of queer longevity—a life of shards, composed by loss and continually makeshift.


A dark room, punctuated by low, shifting lights is rigged to diminish the appearance of tiny actions—which escape illumination, withdraw, slip away. More time, more reflection. This makes more room: for artifice, penetration, and sensuous breaks. For the queer commons, its histories, and its posterity. Room also to mingle and be haunted, as well as moved. To lose one’s object, amid objects in the room: wire frame cubes dangle from the ceiling or graze the floor; boxes covered in aged mirrors generate an evolving landscape of angled reflections, deflected in fragments. Together with the lights, they situate workspaces in partial, fleeting glimmers that defy capture.


REPEATER harbors deep, distant "insides" behind a reflective facade, meanwhile trailing the choppy residues of recurring disruptions. There is no “outward” performance. Tolentino’s micro-actions produce tremors that keep the room changing, moving, shifting, reconfiguring. Disguised as trivial durational placeholder or a dreamer’s haptic escape, these deep dives accelerate the quotidian through inquiries of inner logic, making and remaking temporary structures—bodies, constructions, fabulations, queer habitats: sparse yet generous worlds, demolished before they can fully emerge. 

Six-hour object-driven meditations tune a sense of time tendered in swings, shakes, and shudders, dragging and reallocating the ever-changing shadows toward illegibility. The concurrent collections of 108 objects—razors from Tolentino's hourly cutting, slides sampling the blood, raw prints from motion-activated night vision cameras preserved in glass—catalog the work of time: an unmappable territory that is the province of desire, its accumulated images and objects marking time spent unfolding, not becoming.


Three figures animate REPEATER: Mr. Exhibit A, The Red Void, and The Shiny Dark Figure, each comprising a distinct attitude that is ever present, even if unseen.   

Mr. Exhibit A (named after Tolentino's 1998 performance piece) strives to keep the room and all its elements in flux, varying the speed and degree of changes. Polyamorous by nature, Mr. Exhibit A and The Red Void both resist any single configuration or action. Not that one. Wrong body. Too certain. Rephrase. Do over. Refract. More this. More them. Turning away, misread, failing, falling out. Into: The dark. The night. The party. Sex. The club. The void. Still teachers, these crevices. Still places of change.

In contrast, The Shiny Dark Figure references the aging body, moving at a slower pace within a reflective black "void" that conceals the body while letting parts occasionally slip out into view through various holes. (A video of the artist performing inside another kind of void on Fire Island plays once per hour.) Against neoliberal conceptions of wellness, whiteness, and wholeness, The Shiny Dark Figure is marked, wanting, and wrong: aging, brown, queer, decaying, disabled, and haunted by its growing ledger of ghosts. A body that doesn't recover but unfolds.


REPEATER concerns both presence and loss, resistance and grief, and insular processes continually unravelling their apparent conceits. Not just taking time, taking it back: from that universalizing progressive whiteness that only subsumes difference under paper promises of improvement, voiding the other body. Seen or unseen, legible or not, Tolentino's performances reopen disappeared spaces for disappeared bodies to get a foothold, wander, and change—regaining other time through her and our interloping interventions among dissembling surfaces.


Sounds heard during REPEATER are collected and developed in collaboration with Robert Crouch. The artist also acknowledges the sustained collaboration and artistry of Pigpen/Stosh Fila, whose touch is deeply felt throughout this work.

2’ x 2’ cube, in memory of this year of flight: RS, DC, DH, RZ, Stanley Love, and Alessandro Codagnone.

Special thanks: Mark So, Stosh Fila, Robert Crouch, Yann Novak, Jonathan Berger, Debra Levine, Chloë Flores/Guesthaus, David Roussève, Leo Goldman, Luis Lara Malvacías, Anna Betbeze, Anusha Kedhar, Felix Vargas, Jekara Govan, Rosalia Lerner, John Burtle, Jay Bartley, Oraison Larmon, Jeanne Vaccaro, Jennifer Doyle, and Sadia Shirazi. 

Julie Tolentino (b. 1964, San Francisco; lives and works in Joshua Tree) is a Filipino-Salvadoran artist whose practice explores duration, movement, and sensuality within environments that develop liminal spaces of relationality, memory, race, gender, and the archive. Tolentino is a current MFA candidate and Dean's Distinguished Fellow of Experimental Choreography at the University of California, Riverside. Performances and exhibitions were held at PARTICIPANT INC, New York (2019); Thessaloniki Biennial, Greece (2018); Fulcrum Arts, Pasadena (2015); NYU Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates (2013); TheatreWorks, Singapore (2013); New Museum, New York (2013); and Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, Germany (2010). Tolentino is the recipient of the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grant to Artists in Performance (2019), Fulcrum Arts Artist Honor (2019), Pieter Performance Dancemakers Grant (2018), Art Matters Grant (2015, 2010), CHIME Mentorship award with Jmy Kidd (2012) and Doran George (2010), and residencies at Boffo Fire Island (2018), Hope Mohr Dance Community Engagement Bridge Project (2017-18), Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (2013-14), and PACT Zollverein (2012). Tolentino is the editor of Provocations in The Drama Review, and has led queer club spaces such as Clit Club, Tattooed Love Child, and Dagger at various locations in New York City throughout the 1990s. She was a member of ACTUP NY, Art Positive, and House of Color Video Collective, and with Cynthia Madansky, co-created and distributed the Safer Sex Handbook for Women for Lesbian AIDS Project/GMHC. Tolentino was featured in Madonna’s SEX book (1992), Red Hot and Blue’s “Safe Sex is Hot Sex” poster series (1991), and Gran Fury’s “Kissing Doesn’t Kill” ad campaign (1989).