Covering the fairs in Basel this week has left me with little time to write my regular feature on The Reeler. Graciously, my good friend and video artist Wayne Hodge, agreed to lend a hand, and has written a report on Smack Mellon’s third installment in the cineplex series Legal Aliens. What I like about Hodge’s take on the show, is that while he takes into account the difficulties of viewing several videos playing in one space at the time, he doesn’t allow it to dominate his experience of the work. The Hodge low down here:
Legal Aliens is the title of the third part of Smack Mellon’s cineplex—styled film and video screening series Multiplex. This time around, a guest curatorial team of Ofri Cnaani and Rotem Ruff showcase artists who work within contemporary debates on immigration. The artists gathered here all use media (and in one case even installation) to address a myriad number of positions and concerns; global in its approach, yet local in its impact, the curatorial bent of the show is decidedly about negotiating spaces between categories.
This approach is most evident in the conversation that happens between the works in the space. At first, I was a bit turned off by the installation as a whole; it brought to mind the conventional cineplex stereotype suggesting that if you go to see a character drama, you can hear the action flick in the next theater (or, if you are in New York, the action flick and the subway). But the act of sorting out the sounds associated with each work projected in the space provoked many exciting connections between image and sound; as I huddled up to a speaker, I couldn’t help but feel a certain intimacy with each piece as it played in an enormous space that was still not quite large enough to encapsulate and isolate each individual work. In fact, the first work one encounters in the space is not media-based at all — rather, Esperanza Mayobre’s Virgin of Esperanza, Mother of Immigrants is a wall of candles emblazoned with a self-portrait of the artist as a saint. While the image of the saint carries contemporary effects (including a passport and a green card), the candle is a reminder of pre-film forms of media. One thinks of the flame of the candle in opposition to the space filled with projectors and plasma screens; the ephemeral nature of the candle in the context of so much media technology.
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