Late Nights at the Whitney
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Jesse Aron Green’s video installation takes its title from an 1858 book by the German physician Daniel Gottlob Moritz Schreber in which a set of gymnastic exercises is described. Green used Schreber’s text as a “score”: sixteen male performers in the video execute forty-five exercises according to the book’s precise instructions.
Although popular in its time, Schreber’s fitness regime has a dubious legacy. The bodily discipline he prescribed may have adversely affected his son, Daniel Paul Schreber, who recounted a mental breakdown in his well-known book Memoirs of My Nervous Illness (1903). This lucid autobiography, in turn, prompted several early psychoanalytic studies on paranoia, sexuality, and paternal authority.
Green explicitly situates the elder Schreber’s text in relation to the art of the 1960s. The serial arrangement of the performers’ low plinths recalls Minimal sculpture, and the extended duration of the video’s single shot references the self-reflexive techniques of Structural filmmaking. While it implies connections between these often-rigid aesthetic strategies and Schreber’s work, Green’s project also suggests how a critical engagement with earlier art forms can facilitate a broader historical inquiry.