Jenna Bliss at Stadtgalerie Bern

Artist: Jenna Bliss

Exhibition title: Now vacant

Venue: Stadtgalerie Bern, Bern, Switzerland

Date: March 20 – May 8, 2021

Photography: David Aebi / all images copyright and courtesy of the artists and Stadtgalerie, Bern

Artist and filmmaker Jenna Bliss’s (b. 1984 in Yon-kers, New York) exhibition at the Stadtgalerie comprises four video works whose point of departure is the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The central work in the exhibition, Professional witnesses. (2021), consists of eight episodes. Eight actors in their roles as survivors—a delivery man, a paramedic, a janitor, an office worker, an artist, a retired firefighter, a student, and a Wall Street broker—recount their personal experiences of 9/11. Professional witnesses. could be described as a “mockumentary”—a faux-documentary film genre whose subject matter is often the form and conventions of documentary film itself. Ba-sed on the film-editing technique, casting, image for-mat and fashion styles, the fictional time period of the video’s production can be approximated to 2002 (shortly after 9/11). Bliss’s white-background studio setting for the interviews, as well as the exhibition poster, mimic advertising styles from the early 2000s such as Benetton, Gap, Old Navy, and documentary filmmaker Errol Morris’s Switch campaign for Apple in particular. The scripted interviews were inspired by actual testimonies recorded and ar-chived by artist and filmmaker Ruth Sergel in her project Voices of 9.11—A People’s Archive (2002–2003), as well as interview transcripts of first responders from the 9/11 Commission Report and secondary materials. The monologues pay heed to the reality of one’s own individual experience of social inequalities—thus subverting the formal language of com-mercials from the 2000s where diversity merely serves as a cipher for market-based liberal individualism. In so doing, the artist’s use of sardonic humor produces a tension through which to interpret these scripted interviews. Overall, the exhibition stages an interplay of various temporalities. It creates a vacuum, a vacancy. No present, no spectacle. The planes remain in the sky.

In her practice, Bliss mixes filmic technologies from different eras. Both the material she appropriates and that which she produces herself is therefore always inscribed with a specific material and ideologi-cal time-code. These various temporalities transmit their own semiotics that Bliss then merges together via montage. The resulting dissonance produces no (ahistorical) simultaneity, no permanent presence. Rather, the artist reveals the ideologies within these mechanisms and alludes to their historical connections and contingencies. The title of her previous exhibition, late responder, implies delay. Bliss says of her practice in the text accompanying the exhibiti-on: “Though it may be naïve, it’s not necessarily nostalgic to use nearly abandoned technology as a weapon of resistance.” Her works play with temporalities, with ostensibly awkward moments in time and disruptive shifts as her own strategy of image production and distribution. In the future, she pro-mises, fragments from current and previous exhibitions will be incorporated into a feature-length film: a history of Wall Street’s persistence marked by catastrophe, from 9/11 to the economic crisis of 2008 and Hurricane Sandy, to the political protest movements formed in their wake and whose ambiguous effects are currently being negotiated.

[1] Alexandra Symons Sutcliffe: Private Publics – Jenna Bliss

JENNA BLISS (b. 1984 in Yonkers, New York), Lives and works in New York. Solo exhibitions/ movies (selection): Late Responder, Galerie Felix Gaudlitz, Vienna (2020); The People‘s Detox, do-cumentary (2018); Poison the Cure, Outpost Gallery, Norwich (2017); Group exhibitions (selec-tion): Cutting the Stone, Miguel Abreau Galery, New York (2019); Straying from the Line, Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin(2019); Subsets, Christian Ander-sen Gallery, Copenhagen (2019); Ex-Voto: The body + the institution, Galway Arts Centre, Galway (2018).

Jenna Bliss, Connecting the dots, 2021, HD Video TRT, 1:52.

Jenna Bliss, Connecting the dots, 2021, HD Video TRT, 1:52.





Jenna Bliss,  Conspiracy, 2021

Jenna Bliss, Now vacant., Stadtgalerie Bern, 2021, exhibition view

Jenna Bliss, Now vacant., Stadtgalerie Bern, 2021, exhibition view

Jenna Bliss, Now vacant., Stadtgalerie Bern, 2021, exhibition view





Jenna Bliss, Now Vacant., Stadtgalerie Bern, 2021, installation view. Spectacle, 2021

Jenna Bliss, Spectacle, 2021, SD Video TRT, 1:43

Jenna Bliss, Spectacle, 2021, SD Video TRT, 1:43

Jenna Bliss, Spectacle, 2021, SD Video TRT, 1:43

Jenna Bliss, Conspiracy, 2021, SD Video TRT, 1:46

Jenna Bliss, Conspiracy, 2021, SD Video TRT, 1:46





Jenna Bliss,  Conspiracy, 2021

Jenna Bliss, Professional witnesses., 2021, SD/HD Video TRT, 1:00:33

Jenna Bliss, Professional witnesses., 2021, SD/HD Video TRT, 1:00:33.

Jenna Bliss, Professional witnesses., 2021, SD/HD Video TRT, 1:00:33.





Jenna Bliss, TRAILER: Professional witnesses., 2021