Ledare filmed The Task during a three-day Group Relations Conference—a social psychology method developed by London’s Tavistock Institute—that the artist organized in Chicago in 2017. In addition to directing the film crew, Ledare assembled a diverse group of twenty-eight participants and secured the collaboration of ten psychologists trained in the method. During a sequence of small and large group meetings, the group studies its own self-made social structure—an abstract “task” that allows participants to examine the identities, roles, desires, and biases that individuals import into the group, as well as conscious and unconscious group dynamics. Ledare introduced an unprecedented modification to the method, however: the presence of a camera crew and the artist as observers and collaborators. This intervention shifted the “here and now” orientation of the conference by making the members of the group aware of the effect of external social and technological forces—in particular, the contradictory fantasies, desires and fears made manifest through the presence of the camera, and the opposing ways it is implemented by the group. By complicating authority and boundaries among all members—including the artist—Ledare calls attention, by analogy, to power structures that govern our relations to one another in a society where we are increasingly both observers and observed.
Presented in seven chapters, The Task focuses on three of four large group meetings, each of which includes all 28 participants, three psychologists (or “consultants”), six camera operators, three observers—and Ledare himself, whose role evolves over the course of the conference. Throughout the film, the group’s members grapple with the emergence of complex patterns of stereotyping and other projections of identity; authority is questioned, assumed, and then taken away; and viewers are implicated as the participants negotiate subjective forces which exceed the structured constraints of the self-made system.
As in many of the artist’s previous works, The Task pushes the limits of a familiar social construction to sound out the complex and multifaceted networks of meaning that underwrite the social. This film continues Ledare’s examination of the camera as a subject itself. Moreover, it extends strategies of intervention that have been present since the inception of his first work, Pretend You’re Actually Alive, an intimate portrait of his own family that centers around his mother’s complex enactments of sexuality towards both affirmative and negational ends. The Task was originally created for Ledare’s solo exhibition The Plot at the Art Institute of Chicago and has been shown in exhibition and screening format.
CATHERINE TAFT is deputy director and curator at LAXART. Previously, she was assistant curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where she co-organized the inaugural show of its new building, “America is Hard to See” (2015) and curatorial associate in the department of architecture and contemporary art at the Getty Research Institute where she assisted with the exhibitions “Pacific Standard Time: Crosscurrents in L.A. Painting and Sculpture, 1950–1970” (2011) and “California Video” (2008). Her essays specializing in experimental film and video, critical theory, and modern and contemporary art have appeared in such publications as Artforum, Art Review, Kaleidoscope, and Modern Painters, and in exhibition catalogues and monographs on artists including Matthew Barney, Carroll Dunham, Elliot Hundley, Yayoi Kusama, and Sterling Ruby. Among the exhibitions she has organized at LAXART are the group shows “Re-Constitution” (2016 with Hamza Walker), “Raphael Montanez Ortiz” (2017), “Remote Castration” (2018), and “Barbara Stauffacher Solomon: Relax into the Invisible” (2019). She is currently working on a solo shows with artist Josh Kline as well as a historical survey on ecofeminist art, for which she was awarded an Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts Research Fellowship.