Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Silence of the Lambs style

There is something about alternative space art shows that gets me every time. When a space can be chosen to perfectly complement the work and layer on the ambiance, nothing gets a whole lot better. Maria Watts’ Reynoldstown basement fit the bill this weekend to a T for the video-performance-installation-sound showcase, Electro-Scuro. The one-night exhibition featured the likes of Karen Tauches, Maria Watts, Jason Cochrane, Mariah Cagle, Lauren Macdonald, and Carrie Elzey. Although the ever-so reminiscent Silence of the Lambs basement night light vision scene was a bit off putting at first, as you wound your way through the basement, the echoes of each video and sound installation became a bit more haunting still and even more all-encompassing.

Maria Watts, who curated the show, showcased a new twist to her video installations. Watts’ past shows, including her piece from Mary Stanley’s 21 Under 30 show and her installation in Eyedrum’s small gallery over the summer paid homage to her relationships and a fascination with capturing the tactile elements of her day to day life. Her installation for Electro-Scuro, “Untitled: A Work in Progress”, provided a spin on her approach to the sensual from her previously unabashedly candid views into her life. The room was harshly lit, and in contrast with the darkened, damp basement was an immediate draw. The room was lined wall to wall cracked eggshells along the floor begging to be walked on. In the corner of the room a video of Maria’s feet clad in the perfect eggshell cracking Doc Marten boot stomping the ground, but without any eggshells beneath. I must say, her suggestion was a hard one to resist, considering that the lack of sound in the video was dying to be filled with the sound of my own two feet doing the favor of crushing the shells. Considering the title, it seems she intended the viewer to be the one to finish the project.

The back-most room was a sound installation by Carrie Elzey, “While My Heart’s Still Beating”, which utilized the space the most effectively by engaging the somewhat buried feeling of the basement. The room featured a window which spanned the wall of the room and looked directly onto the yard outside, but right at grass level, without much room to see what space lay beyond the span of the grass directly outside. A record player in the corner was started followed by a pulling of a cord in the ceiling which triggered an outdoor light. I honestly don’t even remember what was playing on the record player, but the sound mirrored the lives of the grass dwellers outside of the window.

Karen Tauches’ performance, “The Lines of Communication”, had a definite Twilight Zone feel to it, that I think gave me nightmares later that night. Tauches sat at a desk and recited a customer service voice message while an accompaniment attempted to order from a catalogue in the chair next to her. I don’t know whether it’s the fact that online shopping has taken the place of late-night catalogue ordering, or the fact that the installation used an old-fashioned phone which hung from the ceiling, but the otherworldliness of that act seemed more striking to me than the installation itself. The fact that the human element of things has been removed from so many aspects of our day to day life is not anything new, but Tauches presentation of it was such a caricature that it certainly brought the discourse to a head once again.

Watt’s show if nothing else confirmed for me that video installation can strike many more chords than the average art show these days. Eyedrum’s show from a few weeks ago, ReNEW, ReUSE, ReVIEW, seemed to stress that it is going to be a stretch to find the truly avant garde through traditional media. Electro-Scuro was aware and moved ahead with the trend.

Cross posted from the other blog I write on, Pecanne Log.

No comments: