ARTLURKER

A Miami based contemporary art newsletter / blog

2.20.2010 at Twenty Twenty Projects

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2.20.2010 installation view. Image courtesy of the artists and Twenty Twenty Projects.

Interspersed within the perceptual mechanisms by which we account for tangible reality we humans are reputed to possess a number of latent faculties, their fruits often discredited as mere superstitions, which when developed can facilitate skills that open whole other worlds. Irrespective of conventional lore, peoples throughout history have always been moved to build monuments to things they don’t fully understand. This natural inclination to devote to and express that which we feel transcends or explains corporeal manifestations has been our common legacy. The fact that we have yet to attain ‘it’ fuels a faith that the answer is out there. And while the majority of us are distracted, lead from the path by our own puerile machinations, there are those who are still looking for a system, something other than “just this” that can be tapped into, still given to an obsession to find ‘the code’.

The current exhibition Twenty Twenty Projects, a collaborative effort between Daniel Newman and Matthew Schreiber, features a massive black box. Looming harmoniously from an angle discordant to the perimeter of its white cube setting, this imposing edifice would perhaps be sufficient as an impenetrable conundrum. However, much like its counterpoint, Bert Rodriguez’s 2008 Whitney Biennial contribution In The Beginning, this latest offering from Miami’s ever-snowballing ‘big cuboid movement’ also has a way in and happily an engaging, if not initially disorienting interior.

Upon entering the structure one is lead through a series of 180 degree turns to the viewing space. Once inside, engulfed in a befuddling, claustrophobic blackness, the glow of a screen and a reassuring sense of camaraderie among fellow viewers slowly bloom. It takes a few minutes for the eye to adjust, a process eventually made tiresome by occasional cell phone illuminations that, like snakes in the game ‘snakes and ladders’, blind you back to the beginning. When an uninterrupted ten minutes presents itself, which with any luck it does during the 40 minute film, a succession of grainy black and white images emerge silently from gloom. Blurred, cropped, and fractured, beyond any hope of positive identification, these vague forms – Chinese paper fortune tellers, crystals, snowflakes, pentagrams, concentric circles, and dancers – appear to materialize despite peripheral vision bleeding into an indecipherable, floating mass. Clattering one by one with giddy disability from the void into equally blinding light, viewers, upon regaining a familiar grasp on their environment, encapsulate their experiences as brief, somewhat unreal memories.

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Matthew Schreiber’s “Mysterium Cosmigraphium,” a kinetic wall sculpture/performance in progress. Image courtesy of Matthew Schreiber.

Prior to 2.20.2010 the pair collaborated on a performance called Nocturne that recently took place in New York. 12 hours long (7pm til 7am) it involved choreography, glowing orbs and endurance and centered around a 17th Century (1603) book entitled Somnium (or Kepler’s Dream) by Johann Kepler, a German mathematician, astronomer and astrologer, best known for his eponymous laws of planetary motion – a laser wall relief based on his geometric model of the solar system is pictured above. Credited by writers such as Isaac Asimov as being the first ever work of science fiction, the book, which is incredibly rare, is only 30 pages long, but contains hundreds of pages of notes in appendices. The synopsis is that there is a witch that makes a potion in order to summon a warlock to transport a man to the moon through the shadow of an eclipse. Both Nocturne and 2.20.2010 are influenced heavily by the reappraisal of what darkness – shadows etc – can be.

Incorporating often overlooked, but culturally significant times – witching hours – the performance took place in almost complete darkness with dancers making waves with light. Like the video in 2.20.2010, Nocturne required a period of adjustment and like the book; the video conveys the making of the witches brew not only in content, but also because the bucket of chemicals assumed in the development of film acts as a metaphor. These works – Nocturne and 2.20.2010 – exist not just because the artists responsible for making them are exploring pseudo sciences, but because hither-to disregarded learning becoming increasingly practically applicable in the ‘real world’ – magnetism, sacred geometry, frequency and tone – not to mention the pull of fascination and the resulting inclination to devote one’s self to the discovery of unknown truth. With that in mind, these works and the very act of their creation become ritualized. Like Brakhage, whose interest in mythology, poetry and visual phenomena spurred him to reveal the universal in the particular by exploring themes of birth, mortality, sexuality and innocence, Newman and Schreiber have succeeded in framing the supernatural. And while unlike Brakhage, neither is particularly noted for his expressiveness, their current symphony is comparably lyrical.

For Newman the video follows a disjunctive tendency to explore the endless palate of black. This investigation began for the artist in 2000 when he made two quite different video works, UNTITLED (COMING SOON) and NIGHTLIGHT (FOR BRAKHAGE). Admittedly lacking the technical wherewithal and budget to complete an epic science fiction film the former became an unchanging shot of deep space black; the latter an early attempt at non-narrative structuralism. For Schreiber the element of darkness was a guiding light. Working with experimental film in grad school on a very Brakhage oriented program where he would shoot film, stick it in a bucket with chemicals, mix it up, rip the film to pieces, re-assemble it, optical print it, and then make holograms with it, lead to his current interest in the qualities of time based media and exposure. In 2.20.2010 these concerns are manifest in the manipulated video and the electro chemical process of adjustment by the retina comparable to the chemical development of film. Converging in 2.20.2010, these contrapuntal concerns of exploring blackness and extruding form from it became one. Rationalizing that 100% black is nearly impossible and that the aim was to show ‘something’ the pair arrived at a result similar to “rods vision”, a term used to describe the difficulty the eye has in focusing and identifying color in very low light conditions.

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2.20.2010 installation view. Image courtesy of the artists and Twenty Twenty Projects.

The viewing room itself also consolidated a number of issues, specifically those pertaining to “video installation”. The necessity of viewing rooms and the manner in which they complete or compete with the work being screened is a matter of ongoing debate. Often artists and institutions improperly address the exhibition space, the content of the film and the manner of display. Sometimes an otherwise poor video is elevated to the level of installation simply by virtue of it being encased in a purpose built structure that actually serves no purpose at all. Other times props or set elements are included in the arena and in the case of the “film loop” even the projector itself often makes a cameo, although this does little other than satisfy a presumed need for novelty.

First and foremost in the case of 2.20.2010 there had to be a room. If not there would be no way to actually, physically see the video. Unlike a perfunctory screening room however, the 2.20.2010 box relates to the video, juxtaposing the loose, almost abstract nature of its editing with an austere, rigid aspect and color that offers another culturally associative layer. The parts then become a cohesive whole and unlike so many near attempts to bridge the gap between intellectual and physical experience, 2.20.2010, in contextualizing fascinating subject matter with an economical yet pointedly practical (yet still elegant) presence evokes everything one can reasonably hope for from a video installation.

And this is exactly the kind of thing we hope for from Twenty Twenty Projects. While other Miami gallery’s are exhibiting design, or in some cases nothing at all, it is reassuring to see the alternative space trading conventionally hung, framed-work for ambitious, immersive media [.]

For more information please visit: www.twentytwentyprojects.com

This post was contributed by Thomas Hollingworth.

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2.20.2010 at Twenty Twenty Projects