"Monitor: Volume 2," June 25-Aug. 9, 2002, at Gagosian Gallery, 555 West 24th Street, New York, N.Y. 10011
After the trek through muggy Gotham streets to West Chelsea, nothing could be more welcome than the air-conditioned, minimalist space of Gagosian Gallery, currently installed with "Monitor: Volume 2," a summer exhibition of 11 single channel video-works, most made within the past few years. The exhibition is Gagosian's second summer-foray into the videodrome, and is organized jointly by the gallery staff.
Many of the pieces are like quick knock-knock jokes, comic one-liners that make the show into a genuine entertainment. The cool, futuristic feel of the exhibition, for what it's worth, gains much from the striking flat-screen monitors, courtesy of Sony Wega.
Facing the entrance to the gallery is Douglas Gordon's Scratch Hither (2001), a 35-minute-long loop of the artist's hand beckoning to the viewer with his finger over and over -- in a motion that appears to be scratching the top of the inside of the TV. Is it some kind of sexual joke? The monitor sits in the middle of the floor (all the rest are against a wall), making the video into a kinetic sculpture.
The most talked about works in the show is Omer Fast's 18-minute-long CNN Concatenated (2002). The Israel-born New Yorker and Whitney Biennial vet, who first showed at Momenta Art in Williamsburg, has culled footage from CNN and radically edited it together into what sounds like poetry -- much of it like the angst-ridden stuff teenagers write. "Just get near me already you hypocritical opportunist fake phony con-artist sell-out lip-serving limousine-liberal white chickenshit motherfucker!" says one amazingly spliced together passage, in which each word jumps from a different newscaster's mouth. The increasingly mesmerizing, seven-part tape hectors the viewer about its own importance and his or her shallowness, weakness, hypocrisy and self-absorption.
Bodhisatva, an animation by Eduardo Abaroa and Rubén Ortiz-Torres, the collaborative team that also has work in the "Mexico City" show at P.S.1, takes figurines of Pop culture and morphs one into another. Bart Simpson becomes a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, which becomes a round-belly Buddha. In the background is a blurry image of a colorful beaded curtain. On the next monitor, Robert Melee's Upstairs Mommy unspools, a pixilated black-and-white view of a young boy dragging his massively overweight mother up a flight of stairs.
Luis Gispert, fresh from the 2002 Whitney Biennial, presents a cute suburban-looking cheerleader against a green-screen background. She's rapping, but her voice is dubbed with a soundtrack from Method Man's first solo album Tical, "Niggaz represent..." Sound and image clash again in Rennid Gnikam by the Oslo-born artist Vibeke Tandberg, who catches a fish, takes it home, cleans it and serves it, all accompanied by a dramatic movie-style soundtrack. Now and then she grimaces oddly. It turns out that the artist did every scene in the fishing ritual backwards and then played it in reverse. This kind of obsessive attention to detail is awe-inspiring, or at least completely insane.
Sound and action go together in Aïda Rulova's very short loop Oh No Hey. We see angled views of a woman in confined spaces obscured by beds. She seems to be having sex and then she's looking vulnerable. The sexual sounds evoke the title of the piece.
German "Action" artist John Bock presents a fast-paced video of food mess. Quick cuts feature the artist spilling, cooking, squirting and squealing each time something goes wrong in the kitchen. There are close ups of eggs, cigarettes, pasta, jam on toast, herring wraps. The sound track definitely makes the video. It's full of rich slushy noises that both revolt and please.
Another Whitney Biennial star, Christian Jankowski, offers up a hilarious piece called Telemistica. More performance art than video, it features a stunt Jankowski pulled at the 1999 Venice Biennale where he called up the local dial-a-psychic television programs to ask questions about his art career. The subtitled results are very endearing.
Dancing for Joy by François-Xavier Courrèges shows the artist doing exactly that -- prancing around a field to a soundtrack of electropop. The music, composed by Courrèges, is pure bliss. It's a happy, smile-creating video -- much like a car commercial set to a song by Moby but without the advertising edge.
Wolfgang Staehle's piece is a live video feed of the Brooklyn Bridge transmitted over the internet. It looks like a slow-moving postcard, and is calming and beautiful but at the same time seeing New York displayed in a routinely macroscopic way creates a sense of sadness and fear. It's not possible to view Staehle's new, untitled work without remembering his last video-feed installation, a shot of downtown Manhattan that was projected mural-sized on the wall at Postmaster's gallery that inadvertently captured the events of Sept. 11. In the new work, cars, clouds and other rhythms of life move across the screen in a fragile and serene ballet, a good way to wind down the exhibition.