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Not exactly a science

seats for watching videos
Someone heard my prayer and provided seats for the long videos

The seating is glorious–three sweet little high-tech stools in front of each of the longer videos at Esther Klein Gallery. Each of those two videos is in its own little cubicle, one nearly a black box, the other more open, but both doing the job of giving a viewer a way to savor the videos.

Roderick Coover
The four small dvd players, mounted on the wall, each had a couple of earphones, and each held ultrashort videos–short enough to make me not mind standing through the experience.

Another highlight–the high-tech, ultra-designed portable dvd players mounted on the wall, two trimmed in orange, two in green–yummy jewels for the tech conscious. The earphones cut off any noise bleed from the viewing rooms.

I’m writing here about the video show Panoramas and Other Circular Stories–Art & Science XXIII, featuring six video works in all by Roderick Coover with word (and sometimes music) soundtracks contributed by several others.

Roderick Coover
People on a Mexican plaza are dwarfed by a giant face looming in an archway, adding a surreal touch and raising issues of authenticity.

I truly enjoyed looking at the two longer videos. The images are beautiful, rich with color, and evocative of times and places, including a beautiful plaza in Mexico that has a clear colonial Latin American history. I especially enjoyed some of the strange juxtapositions, like the giant face looming behind an archway, that put reality or scale into question–as well as the authenticity of the video image as a true record of reality.

Although the subject matter is quite different, Coover’s eye reminds me a little of Doug Aitken’s Interiors installation at the Fabric Workshop, with its broken panoramic narratives and sense of lives in motion, and a little of the elegance of Bill Viola’s The Greeting, with its sense of time relived.

When I listened to the soundtrack as I watched the Coover videos, however, I was utterly puzzled and distracted. When I ignored the voices, I enjoyed the videos more. And when I shut my eyes just to listen, I enjoyed the sound tracks more, although I must say they were a little too arty and precious for my taste. I enjoyed the imagery in the slide-show-like smaller videos, and their shortness protected me from missing a narrative.

Roderick Coover
One of Coover’s manipulated images on the small dvd players. These were stills shown like a series of slides. This one also reminded me of foreign climes. I was thinking of tropical sun and sky. Even the truck inserted in the image seemed to evoke transportation of goods on the twisting roads of some fabulous island.

And to raise a quibble about the exhibit, the press release stated:

“Playing with text/image relationships, these works create strange stories that loop upon themselves and examine the ideas of travel and time in order to evoke ways that technology permeates the modern imagination.”

The whole science connection seemed convoluted. That evocation of how technology permeates the modern imagination eluded me. Better to focus on the content than the process, I think.

However, I did notice how the techology doesn’t always work. Fortunately for me, someone came along and changed the disks in a couple of the small DVD players.

Roderick Coover
Traffic and people on the move dominated the architecture of a London scene.

What the work does evoke are foreign lands and travel. The looping of the imagery creates a surreal sense of time and experience, kind of like Groundhog Day.

Coover’s colors and compositions–and loose narratives that impel the viewer forward — are terrific.

And again, thumbs up on the video installation, which offers some nice lessons in the right way to do it.