Saturday, November 18, 2006

3,480 Seconds @ Root Division (SF)

Alert: This exhibit is scheduled to close on 11/21/06.

Root Division’s warehouse-like exhibition space has been given over to a show of videos by 15 artists. The curator, Pablo Guardiola, calls it “More or Less 3,480 Seconds.” Because the monitors are spread around, and each has a handy volume control on front, a visitor can control the babel in order to focus on individual pieces. There is much to enjoy.

Making photos of video screens is a fool’s errand, but I have included several attempts in the spirit of better-than-nothing. I have also been able to borrow 4 good stills from the curator (including the image at the top).

In James Tantum's video “My Memory Test,” he writes an 8-digit number on a piece of paper, sticks the paper on the wall behind him, and then proceeds in accelerated motion to eat and read, glancing at his watch periodically. (See photos below.) Finally he pulls out another piece of paper, writes the number from memory and shows it to the camera (photo at top). This finale is better than perfection would have been.

A video by Englebert Holder gives a new twist to arm-wrestling. Men and women, adults and children—even a baby—are defeated in quick encounters with The Arm. (Photos below.) Everyone smiles except the dazed baby.

In “So Goes the Nation,” Roger Ngim offers a montage of clips from old informational films, backed by a romantic score (Tchaikovsky). The clips look like they could have been produced by the Department of Commerce in the 1950s. Samples are shown below.

Some pieces use simple ideas to good effect. In “From Here to Eternity” by Paul Zografakis, a guy walks toward the camera until the image on his T-shirt—a nebula— fills the screen. (See two shots below.)

In another simple work (untitled), Brian Wasson turns his camera on a household space that has a pendulum clock in the background. The camera moves back and forth slightly, following the pendulum. You’ll laugh, I guarantee it.

Carlos Ruiz-Valarino’s “Hosts and Guests” uses sophisticated techniques to create a mystery. You see people gathering along a horizon line under a big sky as daylight fades. They could be arriving at a vantage point for watching an eclipse. As each group arrives, they are freeze-framed while new arrivals move across the terrain. One by one, select individuals are highlighted by a white circle that tracks their arrival across the screen. (Detail photo below.) There is a soundtrack that sounds like distant screaming and yelling.

Another inclusion is a reprise of Tim Sullivan’s “Magic Carpet,” already seen in other local shows. Sullivan and a companion appear to fly over San Francisco in a comically unsteady cart that looks like Santa’s sled.

Finally, for lovers of abject art, there is a sequence of cheesy puppet videos by Haden Nichols, full of smart-ass dialogue. This could be outtake art (photo below).

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