Still from
Interior/Exterior, Full/Empty 1997

   With so many mindless video and film installations being produced, I had just about sworn off that kind of thing altogether. But now New York artist Lorna Simpson has come up with an installation that is a reminder of how powerful the medium can be. Filling the darkened gallery space, the work Interior/Exterior, Full/Empty consists of seven continuously running black-and-white video projections, three on each side of the gallery and a seventh on the room's back wall. Six of the projections show interiors with and without people -- an empty bathroom, for instance, or a man sitting on a couch. As in Simpson's recent photo pieces, this work has the suggestion of a narrative, via a series of apparently loosely connected dramatic events that unfold over a 20-minute period.

The viewer becomes something of a voyeur, eavesdropping on chit-chatting friends and gossipy phone conversations, and peeping through a bathroom keyhole to watch two women bathing together. In contrast to the interior scenes, the projection on the back wall shows an outdoor setting, shot in an Ohio park. Here, people appear in quiet incidents that occur in the distance, across a pool of water. But these interruptions seem to be subordinate to the image's function as a contemplation of nature, and a respite from the interior dramas taking place on the other walls. Like the photos on felt from the artist's previous New York gallery show, this installation seemed to wrap the viewer in a kind of warm and cozy sensation of intimacy. In this video work, as in her photography, Simpson expands the textual and well as textural possibilities of the medium.

This exhibition coincides with a Lorna Simpson show currently on view at the Wexner Center in Columbus, Ohio, through Jan. 4, 1998.

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