Thursday, January 1, 2015

Days of Endless Time

Where: Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden

When: through April 6, 2015

Happy New Year!  To all of you reading this, I wish you the best that 2015 has to offer.  I'm hoping that this year will bring many fantastic shows in D.C. and elsewhere.

The last show I saw in 2014 was the Hirshhorn's video extravaganza, "Days of Endless Time."  Regular readers of this blog know all too well my distaste for the Hirshhorn generally, but I have nothing but praise for their video offerings.  I've seen many wild and weird and wonderful pieces over the years, so you can imagine how much I was anticipating this show of 14(!) videos - like a kid in a candy shop.  The simile is apt; by the time I walked out, I felt as if I'd eaten entirely too much video candy, and needed a course of 19th century landscapes (or whatever the artistic equivalent of Pepto-Bismol might be) to soothe my system.

I liked the presentations; they all had a hypnotic quality to them, as if you could just sit and watch them for hours.  According to the wall notes, they're meant to offer a poetic refuge from the frantic pace of modern life, and they do cause you to slow your pace.  Of course, on a lunchtime excursion, I was able to give each piece little more than a glance.   Two of the videos I'd seen at the Hirshhorn before: Hans Op de Beeck's "Staging Silence" and Douglas Gordon's "Play Dead; Real Time."  The video that held my attention longest was Sigalit Landau's "DeadSee."  It features the artist, nude, floating in a circular arrangement of watermelons in a body of water.  As the fruit turns, the circle spins slowly apart, taking the artist along for the ride.

I also liked "Shadowplay" by Hans-Peter Feldman.  There's nothing complex about this set-up; it's common, every-day objects spinning on several turntables (I think, not sure exactly what they are), with light set up behind them.  The shadows created are thrown on the wall, where the objects are magnified and brought together, almost like a dance.  It sounds odd, but it interesting to watch, and there are comfy chairs in the room, which was a welcome feature.

These videos take up the entire second floor, but, unlike most of these big shows, I didn't feel as if I was on the Bataan Death March.  The lighting is quite low, and many walls have been constructed to keep glare from the screens, so you feel rather as if you're making your way through a labyrinth.

My criticism of the way the show is constructed is that watching so many videos is a bit much all at once, but it's quite hard to step in and watch just one or two, if they're not right at the entrance or exit.  I'd recommend taking this show in moderation, but that's tricky to manage.  Novertheless, I'm going to give it a try over the next several months - when I'm at the Hirshhorn, I'll just wander up to the second floor and dip in here or there.

Verdict: If you like video art, this is a can't miss show.  If you can spread your visit out over two or three sessions, I think you'll be better served than by trying to see everything in one sitting.

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