Monday, May 4, 2015

A Black Box Oddity

Where: Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden

When: through August 9, 2015

As long-time readers of the blog are aware (perhaps all too well aware?), I'm not a great fan of the Hirshhorn.  Although I have seen good shows there, much of its collection is just bizarre, and I would like to get some of the hours I've spent there back, thank you very much.

One thing that is reliably good, however, is the "Black Box" series.  These are modern art videos, and they are weird (this is the Hirshhorn, after all), but interesting weird.  I might not fully understand what I'm seeing, but I'm often rooted to my seat - caught up anticipation of what will happen next.

This latest offering, Risto-Pekka Blom's “Kurdrjavka [Little Ball of Fur],” is certainly odd.  Apparently, the theme is the first dog in space, a Russian canine who perished in flight.  The dog's demise was covered up for decades, as it happened only a day or two into the mission - far earlier than what those sending her up into space had anticipated.

The video shows Laika the dog only for a few seconds; the rest of the piece is pictures of officials and official ceremonies put to an invented soundtrack - what's called "shredding."  This is a new term to me, although I've seen videos using this technique before.

My problem with the piece is that, if I didn't have the wall notes to tell me what this was, I'd have no idea what I was looking at.  They don't just complement the piece; they are necessary to any understanding of it.  The video itself is not riveting in the way others in this series have been, so I walked away scratching my head, wondering what the point of it was.

Verdict: Better than much of what's on offer at the Hirshhorn, but not the best of this series.

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