Curator and artist Will Pappenheimer’s Tunneling at the underground Bushwick space Famous Accountants is a densely layered show heavy on technology and illusion. While the group exhibition aligns well with the gallery’s affection for mind-altering art, Pappenheimer’s curation fits perfectly into the long narrow space and brings together work that invites you to unpack them visually.
One of the most awe-inspiring pieces in the show is Mark Skwarek & Joseph Hocking’s timely “the leak in your home town” (2010). Considered a “logo hack,” the artists have created an iPhone app (not available on iTunes or online yet) that allows users to hold up their iPhone cameras to the BP logo on the floor of the gallery, which is then transformed into a digitalized crude oil spill. It’s a fascinating technological trick and a type of corporate hacking that artists are only starting to experiment with. After my fascination subsided, I felt a sense of concern as I imagined how companies will eventually find ways to hook into the cool factor of these innovations and warp it into yet another means of advertising (think Foursquare).
Luke Murphy’s “Dice Spiral” and “Longest Painting of Death” (no dates) are conceptual video works — the former uses a Geiger counter that transforms what looks like Fiestaware into a trippy pattern generated by the item’s radiation, and the latter renders Albert Pinkham Ryder’s “The Race Track (Death on a Pale Horse)” (c.1896-1908) into a mile of pixels that move along the screen at the pace of the renowned race horse Secretariat. While the art works sound like the stuff of tech geek fantasies, they both work well visually and easily ignite the imagination. Without knowing their inner workings, it was easy to be wow’d by their carefully conceived physical appearance and rhythmic power.
Jen Schwarting’s “double dip (black)” (2010) was another work, though not technology based, that played with your perception and forced you to reconfigure the work mentally to make sense of it all. If the flattened black and white form of Schwarting’s work appears at first like some manner of Op art, on closer inspection you realize they are part of a double parachute, which the artist sees related to the economic recession and the curator thinks may be related to post-9/11 concerns for the safety of skyscraper dwellers. Viewed from above (which is how we see it in the gallery), the parachute takes on another character, and I imagined them as the psychedelic headlights of some distant car zooming towards me.
Walking through Tunneling, you are very conscious of your shifting perspective, whether it is with Susanna Starr’s layered plastic wall reliefs, “Untitled (Twirling)” (2010), or Tukji Kogo’s blossoming “Nonsites” (nd) videos, your eyes are eternally alert as you expect new visual transformations to reveal themselves.
Pappenheimer’s own contribution to the show is as part of the Virta-Flaneurazine group, which created a script in Second Life that mimicks the effects of a hallucinatory drug. He has created a 12-minute video, “Side Effects” (2010), for the show that documents “patient” trips in Second Life. The group has organized clinics, where they invite people to “take” the script/drug and travel around the virtual planet “high.” The result is that patients loose control of their avatars and experience the effects in-world. The only differences between this virtual simulation and the real thing is its legality, the hangover, the duration, the scale of the hallucinations, and the fact that other Second Life avatars can see your trip — if only real life were more like virtual worlds. Like Skwarek & Hocking’s work, this piece is really exciting for the possibilities it suggests.
What binds the works in Tunneling together is a fascination with layers of reality and fiction. These are not fast works that can be judged by a first reaction and each piece requires you to visually sift through its layers until its inner workings or overarching themes are revealed. The trip is worth the time, though you only have two days left.
Tunneling is curated by Will Pappenheimer and is on view at Famous Accountants (until Sunday, September 4). It features the work of Rico Gatson, Meg Hitchcock, Cooper Holoweski, Takuji Kogo, Luke Murphy, Irvin Morazen, Jen Schwarting, Mark Skwarek and Joseph Hocking, Susanna Starr, and Virta-Flaneurazine. There is a closing party tomorrow night, Saturday, September 4 from 6 – 9 pm.
If you can’t make it IRL, check out James Kalm’s excellent video of the show (below), which includes a tour with the curator, or you can check out my photo set here: