Art: Silent Drama

Repetition and discontinuity circulate through Publico's latest exhibition

Sep 13, 2006 at 2:06 pm
Andy Houston

Ever and Over is presented at Publico Gallery in Over-the-Rhine through Sept. 23.

Things are quiet at Publico. But not too quiet. The new exhibition there, Ever and Over, is a collection of five silent video projections from five different artists, each dealing with that silence in a different way.

First things first, though — the quiet doesn't translate into stillness. In fact, the exhibition is focused on the movement and progression of things, whether animals, decoration, recording or people. And then there's repetition.

Repetition can seem pretty obvious in a video installation, given that video art is likely looped for continuous viewing, as it is in Ever and Over. Yet here the sudden start-over factor doesn't feel like an "Oops" moment innate to the medium; rather, the restarting and repetition seem like the point.

Some of the videos are in themselves dramatic. Take, for example, Laura Herman's "Weather Porn."

Herman has merged storm-tracker footage, in and of itself a phenomenon in contemporary culture, and cut it with images of horses dancing among lightning and neighing and burrowing in the dust of tornados.

It's a curious mix, either too random or too thought out. As the video rolls, the riotous action butts heads with the silence of the movement, and there you are, glued to the light on the screen, feeling transposed from a gallery to The Wizard of Oz to an old Western to a Marlboro advertisement. No longer is the mix so curious: The weather (pornography exposed) and the animals progress together through the same motions and whirlwinds, as do you, the suddenly dislocated viewer.

The spectacle is less apparent in the work of Nadia Hironaka, entitled "Light Switch Daydream." Her video, the first you'll encounter in the gallery, is a clean, craft-worn delight. The projection features a shabby chic light switch, first a dirty white, with the "on/off" switch flipped to "NO." As the video moves, the switch gets all dolled up, with painted flowers and cozy details.

Hironaka must be thinking about light, but this work seems more about time than anything else. The start-over factor is obvious, and for a reason: She's done a perfect job locating the viewer in physical space and time. The hand that comes to switch off the light is startling, almost aggressive, like someone shaking you awake.

Hard to know what to make of another video, David Dunn's "Throws," which after many minutes of viewing becomes so fascinating it's difficult to move away. Dunn's work, depending on the moment you appear in front of it, is likely to look like some kind of science experiment, molecules dancing and bending in a green goop.

Yet as the video speeds up, slows down and bumps into things, you catch glimpses of human figures swirling, playing or fighting on a field of grass. The silence seeps in. The patches of movements and eddies of bodies become dancers, and they become grace. Trace them with your eyes, and you'll lose your own feet, transported into a looping green field. Grade A Video projections by Laura Herman (left) and Nadia Hironaka use silence and repetition to great effect.