Sunday, January 23, 2011

Several videos at the Hirshhorn

Where: Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

When: through March 27, 2011

Once again, I made my way to the Hirshhorn, consciously lowering my expectations, hoping to be pleasantly surprised. Hit and miss, on this trip, in my view. At least I wasn't led down a dark corridor, only to be yelled at by a disembodied voice.

I saw three different installations this trip. In order to fully appreciate them all, you probably want to allow two trips for this. On the other hand, if two trips to the Hirshhorn are more than you can tolerate between now and the end of March, you can get some idea of what's going on in one outing.

The first exhibit I saw was the latest in the Black Box series of videos. I must admit, I've been pleased with this series. The videos tend to be short enough to fit within a lunchtime trip, and although they're a bit out of the ordinary, they are interesting. This video did not disappoint. It's "Staging Silence" by Hans Op de Beeck, a series of tableaux that each begin with hands coming in to set the stage (see picture above). It's obvious that these are simply little models, but once the hands move away, and the lighting changes, you can't help but be drawn in to the scene, as if it's real. The plastic trees become real, the sand swept into place becomes a stream; it's amazing that this happens over and over again, even though you know what's going on. The first tableau involved stringing street lights, and I was reminded of one of the videos I saw in the Fiona tan show at the Sackler. Yet again, one exhibit reminds me of another...

The other two shows are part of the museum's Directions series and feature works by Cyprien Gaillard and Mario Garcia Torres. The Mario Garcia Torres installation features a slide show of the Grapetree Bay Hotel in St. Croix. At one time a lovely beach destination for wealthy tourists, it's now been allowed to descend into ruin. When I say it's a slide show, that's literally what I mean. There's a slide projector that's showing slides on the wall, and you can hear the familiar click as it moves from one image to another. While I was watching, a small child, perhaps three or four years old, came into the room and remarked, "how ingenious." The exhibit, while interesting in its way, was not so riveting that I didn't hear this, and wonder how such a small child had learned such a big word. My reaction to the show was similar to my reaction to "The Pond" - let's do something about this. Yes, this hotel has fallen into disrepair, but is this a call to fix it? Tear it down? What are we supposed to do now?

The Gaillard show is less easy to describe. I admit that I didn't watch all of the videos, as I was running short of time, so perhaps if I'd seen the entire piece, I might be better able to comment. I walked into the room as a video of a riot was ending - some pushing and shoving, but not much else. This was replaced by a light show on a large building. This was interesting, but not enough to keep me in the room for the rest of the piece.

Verdict: "Staging Silence" is well worth a trip, as its predecessors in the Black Box series have been. The Directions pieces are okay, and if you're in the building anyway, you could have a look, but not worth a separate trip.

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