Notes by Brian Boucher
In Volker Schreiner's devilishly clever and fun Open Up, from 1991, windows, doors, blinds, curtains, fences, and gates open and close. The piece 22, like the opening of the sitcom Get Smart, and, when we look at the window of a nearby home, Hitchcock's Rear Window. Stracke's installation of the piece, in the server cabinets in The Thing's office, also recalled, for me, the similarly clever installation of Ceal Floyer's delightful Light Switch, featured in P.S.1's exhibition Loop. The piece's lightning edits resonate with work being done today, like Omer Fast's CNN Concatenated and Christian Marclay's Video Quartet (both 2002).
As the images of flat surfaces and shallow spaces roll by, the piece recalls trompe-l'oeil paintings of walls or bulletin boards. At times, whites and off-whites lend the look of minimalist works. Then, near the end, a window opens and a sunlit tree's leaves blow in the wind. It's like living in the city and always staring at a computer screen: It's nearly ecstatic when things open up.
In We Are You, Johanne Nissen uses a light touch to create an engaging and unpretentious study in weighty subjects like image, identity, and masquerade. Hands present to the viewer still images out of which Nissen has cut the faces; with her face behind them, she assumes the identity of those pictured. We watch her trying out different roles, from a pouty fashion model to a glaring Jackie Chan in a movie poster (watch her adjusting her sneer!), from a proud mother to a bespectacled, scholarly type.
Even as we chuckle at the low-budget acting, we feel pegged as we think about our own everyday masquerading: home self, work self, etc. And as she crosses genders, races, ages, and social types and declares all these subjects to be "you," she voices a serious wish for solidarity even as she elicits our smiles.
Rolf Gibbs's G provides
a bomb's eye view of the fall from an airplane, starting with a dizzying
spin and rapidly settling in to a steady fall to earth. The piece dryly
recalls the bomb's eye views from the first Gulf War, but updated with
Hollywood effects. Especially given the desert setting, one can imagine
the generals in Gulf War 2.0 presenting a video like this at a Pentagon
press conference. The fall's vertiginous effect is heightened at the end,
as the video speeds up and added sound amps up the anticipation. Shown
at the Thing as the Administration declared the final stages of preparation
for the next war, these touches at the end of Gibbs's video provided a
more appealing analog to the chilling, all-too-real acceleration in the
theater of war in the Middle East.