Author Archives: Moe

Nate Young at The Suburban

These days I pull back a black curtain and fully expect to walk into a video installation. There’s a language present in the mere existence of the curtain: “this work requires some degree of isolation.” There is a moment of confusion when first entering Nate Young’s installation at The Suburban, however—no video in sight, and an endless loop of what sounds distinctly like James Brown, plus a crowd, plus something else—a kind of religious fervor?

I might not have found the video for “Untouched” at all—I know a few folks that didn’t—except that the space was occupied by a few enthusiastic youngsters who excitedly chimed out ‘It’s here!! Over here!!” and pointed me toward a video screen hidden behind another curtain. An isolated work within an isolated work.

The video is a set of disembodied white-gloved hands. They move in choreographic circles, like a magician’s, as the endless loop of sound plays. In the video, it’s clear where the loop begins and ends—there’s a very sharp visual ‘cut’ where the hands jump positions on the screen—whereas in the listening one feels that the loop is going on forever.

The initial impressions are near-religious—a dark, meditative space where the hands of a near-mystic move in constant rhythm—but what emerges after prolonged viewing is something else entirely. What emerges is a comment on race. On minstreldom. The audio recording emerges as more distinctly James Brown, and in repetition the familiarity of the sound ebbs away. Is the voice tortured? Is this the voice of someone who has been forced to ‘perform’ blackness, over and over, to a point beyond identity or recognition?

The hands move in circles, move in circles. And further. And some point the invisibility of the ‘performer’—invisible in a field of black—comes into question. The bodyless field becomes a minstrel and a universal black performer all at once—black the field, black isolated and encompassing all at once, black race-and-not-race.

The clip, the point where the loop begins and ends—is distracting. It reads like a record skip, takes you out of it. It’s a glitch, in the literal and cultural sense of the word—glitch as in perceived error, glitch as in disruptive entity. It’s irritating and embedded in the work at the same time. It makes the loop laborious, a task that is endlessly repeated. A kind of falling down and getting up, an Sisyphean task.

It takes a minute to stumble back through the darkened room, find the fold in the curtain again, and emerge back into the sunlight. By then the audio has become something else entirely—it’s attached to various unfolding meanings of performance, heavy with multiple meanings. It’s isolating and all-encompassing at the same time. The sunlight hurts your eyes after all the darkness.

CERN: Jeremy Bolen at Andrew Rafacz

This work has long left the Andrew Rafacz Gallery, but is still worth noting.

“In Unititled (CERN7.18.12), at least six intertwined methods of observing through recording are employed, in an almost desperate attempt to form a more complete document of the liminal space between the real and simulated,” writes Monica Ryan of Jeremy Bolen’s work. Bolen does indeed combine layers and methodologies of perception into his flattened frames. But the flattening is not, as Ryan posits, suspended by the various sources and methodologies used to create its contents. Rather, the framed composition of the works give a sensation of a complex scrapbook or collage: a view to a memory or place through multiple artifacts, minutae and ephemera, but a flat experience nevertheless.

Bolen explores various sites, themselves charged with scientific research and meaning, such as the site of the Large Hadron Collider, by using various self-made camera apparatuses, and exposing film to earth, night sky, dew, etc from those sites. The exposed film is then used to create images, which are juxtaposed in CERN with photos of the site in question along with grass clippings, dirt and dust from the site. The pieces read as: photos of places on colored backgrounds with dust and dirt surrounding them.

We enjoy a scrapbook not because we inherently love looking at locks of hair, or coins glued to pages, or bad photos of our friends, but because of the memories those collages bring back into our consciousness. But because I have no real firsthand experience of Bolen’s research process—I have not seen the apparatus he works with, I have not been to these sites myself—I am left not with a different experience of place, or a different understanding of scientific processes and methodologies, but a nostalgic longing for an experience I’ve never had.

The photos are well-composed but uninviting: the dirt and ephemera vary in their composition, and in some cases settle at the bottom of the frame, as if thrown and forgotten: the images produced from negatives are all various shades of delicious green but become a background palette for a framed image which becomes again: scrapbook. I wish, for instance, I could feel the dirt as it was burying negatives: but the green shades tell me nothing as to whether the dirt was cool or warm to the touch.

So Bolen’s work offers me up not a key for interpreting his own form of data, not a translation of his own experience of the site, but something else entirely. I am looking at the scrapbook of a stranger from another planet. There is no common point of reference—I cannot identify with images of people, or wonder at fashions, or gaze at flora and fauna different from what is familiar in my hometown. I am faced with a collection of an experience I cannot relate to.

In short, in his attempt to complete the space ‘between the real and the simulated’, Bolen’s work lands far away from the real. Rather than create a new interpretation of data collection an research process, CERN manages to distance us from the sites under examination—the cold distance of scientific research without the reassuring discovery of collectively useful information or memory.

Culturebot | Visual Art Performance vs. Contemporary Performance

Culturebot | Visual Art Performance vs. Contemporary Performance.

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Poetry Center of Chicago Presents: Rehearsal Of A Grand Opera For One Person and Two Other People