Saturday, April 22, 2017

"Scary" Videos at the Portrait Gallery

Where: National Portrait Gallery

When: through May 7, 2017

The Portrait Gallery's first display of entirely video art is up for another couple of weeks, and it's worth a look.  I wouldn't recommend standing in line for hours for it, but it's intriguing in spots.  Of course, I love going to exhibits that are the first, or last or largest or rarest of something, so that's part of the appeal for me.  Your mileage may vary.

A practical consideration: this is mostly in very low light.  You may find it a bit difficult to get your bearings or navigate, so be prepared for that.  There's really no problem with sound bleed-through, as most of the videos have no sound to speak of.

I liked the piece entitled "Reflecting Pool."  It seems to hang suspended in mid-air, which adds a sort of ghostly quality.  You see people's reflections in the pool, but not their actual bodies walking around.  I could see this forming the basis of a dramatization of one of E.F. Benson's spook stories, if he'd written one about a mysterious pool.

If you're thinking, that's all very well, but what I'm really looking for are videos of naked old people, you're in luck!  There's a pair (diptych?) of videos: one man and one woman.  Each is completely naked, mostly just standing and looking at the camera.  It's possible more happens in the part of the video I didn't see, but action doesn't really seem to be the point, so I doubt it.

The piece that I watched the longest was one of the artist holding his breath.  I kept thinking, "He'll exhale any second now," but it turns out, he can hold his breath a good long time.  When he does exhale, it's with a loud gasp, which is rather disconcerting.  I started at the sound, even though I was waiting for it.

The whole show is a bit off-putting in some way that I can't quite pinpoint.  A young visitor who was standing close by described it as "scary."  That's not exactly the word I would use (although it's the title of the post, so I did use it), but it's vaguely creepy.

Verdict: Spooky pool scenes, breathing and not breathing, plus naked seniors - what more can you ask?

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