Playground, a two-person performance by Ann Hirsch and commissioned by Rhizome, premieres at the New Museum this Friday, October 4.
When a stranger wrote me out of the blue asking me to write about Ann Hirsch, I felt intrigued. I had never heard of her, but a Google search turned up a slew of hits describing an output that seemed impressively extensive for someone so young. Hirsch, her website said, was born in 1985. She is a video and performance artist, based in New York, interested in portrayals of women in the media. But what pulled me in were the links to her videos.
While a graduate student at Syracuse University, Hirsch started a YouTube channel under the persona of a SUNY freshman named Caroline, username "Scandalishious." In more than one hundred videos that she uploaded over nearly two years, a pale, petite young woman appears, her often-disheveled brown bangs barely softening the intensity of her eyes when she stares into the camera. Caroline confides about boys, other classmates, clothes, and feelings of depression, in a high-pitched drawl that dips to gravelly lows when she slows to stress a point. Then she puts on music and dances and dances.
To Girl Talk, MGMT et al., Caroline leaps around, blurring some line between the erotic and the epileptic. She slaps and jiggles her ass inches from the screen, flops facedown on a sofa and spins her arms like a whirligig swimming crawl-stroke. Somehow, it works. Tens and tens of thousands of viewers have watched each of these videos. The documentary that Hirsch posted about Scandlishious on her website includes talking-head professions of love and selfie dance clips that all kinds of fans have sent back.