Reena Spaulings is a composite identity; she is a fictionalised creator and curator that was spawned from the anonymity of the Bernadette Corporation, an art collective founded in 1994 whose members have changed over the years, and reunites roughly 150 anonymous voices. The artist succeeds her own creations living a kind of life lived backwards, whose genesis begins at the point of sale and then recedes to the creation of artworks.
Initially, Reena Spaulings started its identity as a New York gallery, founded in 2003 by Emily Sundblad and John Kelsey, which still continues today. The name provided a fake “front” for the gallery, and she became a portrayal of post 9/11 New York culture and the art scene of the times. Going even to the extent of publishing an eponymous novel, which followed the inception of the gallery, the Bernadette Corporation created a mythical biography of the individual, turning her into a three dimensional persona with a tangibly historical existence. Reena Spaulings could be and is in many ways everybody. She is a collective identity composed of 150 voices and produced by the Bernadette Corporation. This in itself is representative of the aims of the Corporation and exemplifies the reification of commodity culture in the personal interactions of people within this society. Reena Spaulings is an inversion of the cultural industry in which the propagator precedes the creator. This becomes a commentary upon the phenomenon of artists being signed to specific galleries and represents the innate capitalistic tendencies within the art world. This ties into the Bernadette Corporation’s beliefs that it is impossible to negate the economic system, and thus the language of the system should be incorporated into artistic products.
Spaulings affords her constituent artists the ability to work in different ways; to hide behind an alternative persona, producing art which functions in relation to the gallery itself. Her works are unified by a counter-cultural sensibility, and to some extent deconstruct the ideas of individual identity in the modern world. Their works include flags, which are flagrant symbols of nationalism and community. This is reinforced by the communal element of their creations, unified by this fictional singularity. This speaks about society and its constituent entities as being fundamentally fictional, which are largely created to organise communities and to create power relationships. Flags in this sense are a representation of power.
Another subject has been the exploration of money, which is an abstract object that engenders power relationships. In this way, the continuing themes of Reena Spaulings’ works are about the human proclivity to designate and create discrete unities that are ultimately abstractions and thus their works embody this directly. The character in her own rights is also an abstraction whose very existence poses an ontological question regarding why and how the individual functions within the societal context of the 21st century.