Son of Andy


New York was dreary, yesterday, with a steady drizzle that kept the temperatures down, so I didn’t mind. I went up to visit my son, who markets movies on the Internet, and also spent some time with an old friend.

It felt like I was going to see an old friend when I stopped in to see the Burt Barr videos at Brent Sikkema. I had seen Barr’s work (see post from me and post from Roberta) at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and was definitely up for more of the same.

Barr comes from the Andy Warhol school of anti-video (did you know Warhol’s “Sleep” is showing at the ICA next week?). And the three pieces showing at Sikkema fit the bill. Watch for the twitches and contemplate why.


barrroz2My favorite was “Roz,” a video of the face of a beautiful young woman standing in the shower in front of tiles, water coursing over her and her sexy curls. First she emits some sultry curls of smoke from between her lips, setting the scene for sexiness plus weirdness. Then she opens her mouth to sing, and out comes the voice of Otis Clay singing “The Banks of the Ohio,” a maudlin rootsy song of love and murder.

At first she looks amused that she’s standing there lip-synching. Then she gets into it, then she gets bored, then she really goes for it as the woman in the song begs, “…don’t murder me, I’m not prepared for eternity.” Then she alternates between some more emoting and self-consciousness. The one large action in the video is when she raises her arms to lift her wet hair. It’s all kind of sexy–but not in the shameless way that our society usually delivers sexiness–the plea for life and the raised hair serving as climaxes.

Some of the power of this video lies in the shock of such a voice and such a song coming from the mouth of such a beauty. But finally, it’s the woman herself, her multi-racial Rosario Dawson look and her ambivalence played out in small facial adjustments that captivate. I stuck it for all 5 minutes, 42 seconds, no sweat.


barrrunningtimeNo sweat may be one of the problems with “The Mile,” which is my idea of torture, both for the participants and the viewers. A woman runs a mile in 7:25, which is the length of the video. She keeps a steady pace and never breaks a sweat. The video is taken from the back of a vehicle ahead of her, and the landscape is barely a presence on a road amidst low sandy dunes.

As she runs we hear her breathing and the thump of her feet on the pavement (I liked that running -with-sound-effects better in “Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner,” perhaps because it had other action as well). In the upper-left corner of the screen the remaining time for the video and the run is burned in. The “running time” count is the most action this video has to offer, which is pretty funny, given that the woman is in constant motion and she’s going somewhere. Not so the movie, which goes nowhere. It is a picture of asceticism. Not my taste.

barrafanThe third piece was an installation of an oscillating fan on a pedestal in front of a DVD-player projecting a video of an oscillating fan. The real fan casts a shadow on the projected fan image on the wall. And the video projects not just onto the wall but onto the real fan, which reflects onto the walls all around a wheel of light that moves as the fan oscillates.


This, I understand, goes on for 55 minutes. I liked the concept, liked when the breeze hit me, liked the reflections of light and the reflections in my mind–but not enough to stay for more than 3 or 4 minutes.