The love affair between art and popular film continued last week at Canada, the highbrow/lowbrow gallery nestled in an unassuming office building in the badlands between the lower east side and Chinatown. “Action Adventure,” a group show organized by Michael Williams, Melissa Brown and Josh Kline, gathers a group of artists making video/film work that relates to the methods and ideas employed in traditional narrative cinema. The gallery is set up like a movie theater with seats in a dark room and popcorn at the snack table. The press release mentioned something about coming in out of the heat and enjoying the air-conditioned room to watch videos. Maybe on a normal day, but at the opening the AC was no match for the crowds and with all the fanning and sweating in the audience it was like a scene from a 1910 moviehouse.
Shana Moulton showed a funny video from her “Whispering Pines” series that parodies and embraces new age culture. The video climaxes in a glorious rave scene scored by a house version of “Sail Away.” Moulton’s cleverness and restraint keep her work from sinking into absolute kitsch. Rachel Mason showed a video of herself clad in the garb of a superhero climbing a brick wall on the exterior of a four or five story building that is or isn’t real. I couldn’t tell. I heard a rumor that she was kicked out of school for the piece, which makes me think she actually climbed the wall. It’s kind of amazing because with one false step it could have become a snuff film.
Trevor Shimizu, (who has a great project made witha Service-Works grant here, showed a taut, smart digital essay presenting a futurist manifesto backed by lasers and electronic music. Ryan Trecartin, who was a big whoop at the Whitney Biennial with his “discovered on Friendster” story, showed a video that as sort of about Internet dating but mostly just wacky characters gabbing away in funny voices. It was compelling but sort of annoying. I guess that’s his thing though.
There was a languid and funny Scott Reeder piece, photographer Tanyth Berkeley’s foray into video starring creepy clowns, and a bunch of others that I was too hot to stay and watch. I get the impression though that this younger generation of artists has a much different reaction to popular cinema than their predecessors. Instead of appropriating its production values (like Rodney Graham or Stan Douglas) these artists skip back a generation to the 1970s when you used whatever was on hand and let the process show.