We were sitting in the dark with digital artists Kiki Seror at Sean Kelly gallery watching Laurie Andersonís new video. Laurie is one of Kikiís idols.
The installation is titled "The Waters Reglitterized" after an essay Henry Miller wrote for his friend Emil Schnellock about painting, in 1949. Miller writes about doing one of his watercolors, "before going out to the cinema, I gave the smaller picture a bath. Astonishing effect -- everything took on a supernal hue, as at a dawn. Where the colors washed out completely it was not just white paper but a windswept space in which the vanished colors still spoke faintly."
Miller continues, "Before falling to sleep last night I ordered my subconscious mind to remember, on waking, the last thought in my head -- and it worked."
Similarly, Laurie Anderson sets out to wash and remember a dream she had on July 16, 2005. In the video of her dreamscape, we see the back of Laurieís head under a red velvet curtain watching her brother photograph a womanís corpse on the floor of a hotel lobby while a fox circles and sniffs the body. Crinoline and chicken wire frame the scene like sashes and wallpaper in a Vlaminck.
"The womanís body is Duchampís Étant Donnés," Kiki Seror observed, "only sheís clothed out of respect."
"Yes, sheís extending her arm in the same way as Duchampís model," we answered.
"Sheís holding a bloody cloth," Kiki continued, "So subtle, not like the gore of Sue de Beer. I also like the wheelchair."
"Thatís not a wheelchair, itís a red wagon tipped over on its side, and Iím not sure thatís really a fox -- itís a dog." Laurieís wall text describes the fox as "feeling fake."
"The man is snapping pictures like Andy Warhol," Kiki said.
"I feel that Iíve seen him somewhere before." We were drifting deeper into Laurieís dream, trying to identify each object with growing uncertainty.
"The man is taking photos of Laurieís face," Kiki continued, "Maybe thatís the piece, the artwork weíre not meant to see.
"I hope she turns around, I want to see Laurieís face." Of course, she never did, and we never do.
We went home and sketched our memories of the video of Laurieís recollections of her midsummer dream, then were compelled to return to Sean Kelly Gallery the next day and microscopically peruse every inch of the video in search of elusive, if nonexistent, meaning. Through a dark glass darkly, indeed.
Every viewing washed and deluminated this masterpiece, like one of Henry Millerís watercolors, but our hunger for clues was unabated. For the last word, hereís Miller quoting an ancient axiom, "Donít look for miracles, the miracle is you."
Laurie Anderson, "The Waters Reglitterized," Sept. 17-Oct. 22, 2005, at Sean Kelly Gallery, 528 West 29th Street, New York, N.Y. 10001.
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).