Seventeen spartan benches rest in a white-walled room with one window and overhead lighting. On display at Murray Guy, the benches are the result of years of exacting effort by artist Francis Cape to record and reproduce the humble seats of congregants in intentional communities. These groups were America’s 19th-century utopian experiment: the Shakers, Separatists of Zoar, Hutterites, and others who sought an alternative way of living.
Set sometime in the ’80s, mumblecore maven Andrew Bujalski’s fourth feature, Computer Chess, is an adventurous and peculiar period piece. Chronicling a tournament of computers competing in chess and the programmers who code them, the film endearingly evokes the nascent and heady era before smart phones, laptops, and the internet.
In art, control is an elemental if underappreciated principle. At a basic level, art entails control; control over material, control over process, a lack of control over chance. Amid the chaos of life, what do you seek to selectively remove and stage? Richard Avedon viewed it as art’s defining element, reflecting, “I think all art is about control — the encounter between control and the uncontrollable.”
Distilling violence into art is a tricky alchemy. Even when done carefully, it can result in a strange brew, leaving some intoxicated and moved by its heady ascetics, others feeling sick and hung-up on its inherent horror, sadness, and trauma. In On Photography, Susan Sontag famously enunciated that photography depicting violence and suffering can “corrupt” the viewer, discouraging their engagement and activism. The more images of this type that are disseminated and seen, the further this corruption unfolds and pervades the apprehension of photographs of suffering. “Images transfix. Images anesthetize,” she wrote.