A night in the woods with Nadia

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Nadia Hironaka’s installation The Late Show at PAFA. Click image to see it bigger.

Cold and windy outside but warm and summery inside. That was Friday night at PAFA where Nadia Hironaka‘s “The Late Show” debuted in the Morris Gallery.

Hironaka’s non-narrative multi-channel video installation includes a two screen projection and a third visual element, a monitor on the wall. With its ramped up audio, it makes for an immersion in what might be out-takes from the cult flick of a few years back, The Blair Witch Project.

Filmed at a drive-in surrounded by the woods, the piece is quiet and ruminative, like scenes that landed on the cutting room floor because they were too slow to keep an audience involved in a scary movie. The piece was filmed mostly on-site at the Garden Drive-In near Wilkes Barre, and the artist told me at the opening that she chose the spot for its grove of trees behind the bright outdoor screen. The projectionist was apparently very accomodating, and happy to shine a light on Hironaka’s project.

The artist is a Vox Populimember, 2000 Fleisher Challenge winner and linchpin of the local film/video community.

The projection on the big wall shows the outdoor movie screen, the background of trees and in the distance a highway with cars. The second projection shows a car driving at night down a gravel road towards the screen. The car’s driver, a young woman, gets out and stands in front of the car facing the screen and smokes a cigarette. She walks out of the picture and at some point what looks like an animated moth flies into the bright screen and fades away.

The piece is more notable actually for its audio than for the video which has a maddening lack of narrative to it. The nicely-atomospheric audio has cricket sounds, car crunching on gravel road sounds, feet trampling leaves sounds and other less specified things. The intent according to the brochure essay is to implicate the viewer by surrounding you with sounds and images that make you feel like you’re there in the woods. (Above the projection on the darkened skylights are what look like twinkling constellations which enhance the you are there affect.)

The Late Show is a dreamy piece. All Hironaka works have that in common — they let you dream your way into the scene. Here, it’s the audio that does the magic with speakers here and there to give an approximation of a real woods experience.

The linear non-narrative work — which actually has a beginning, a middle and an end — left me aching for more. We’re conditioned to want stories. We read them into everything. Humans are subtext-driven. But here the subtext is less than enough to get the story going.

The Late Show is a technical tour de force by an artist I admire for pushing her videos in amazing ways technically. Had the ten-minute piece a little more narrative push, it would have been perfect. As it is, it’s a nice atmospheric night at the drive-in with no movie.