Tunneling in Bushwick: Group Show at Famous Accountants

The current show at Famous Accountants, a dimly lit, but glowing white basement gallery in a Bushwick home, is a disorienting mix of media and technology. The exhibition, Tunneling, is a 13-person group show which covers the theme of tunneling in both its physical/spatial associations and its psychological—“confining, degenerating, myopic” (press release).

Jen Schwarting, "double dip (black)". Sewn nylon.
Jen Schwarting, “double dip (black)”. Sewn nylon.

The show features roughly an even mix of palpable works using paper or cloth and, on the opposite end of the spectrum, video, digital media, and performance. The pieces are arranged in a loose salon style, with flat-screen TV monitors and digital projections interspersed with works on paper. It is the video and digital media pieces that stand out.

The exhibition is curated by Will Pappenheimer. His piece, a collaboration with John Craig Freeman, is a 12-minute video which documents the experience of Second Life avatars on Virta-Flaneurazine, a drug meant to treat Wanderlust Deficit Disorder (internet addiction). The drug is a digital pill that Second Life users can download, but it has side-effects that can be dream-like and psychedelic, which watchers of the video will understand. In it, a tall figure with mouse ears and tail in a hospital gown floats across a misty, digital landscape. She reaches a Cliffside and hovers vaguely; her eyes light up in a red and white pinwheel. The tunneling theme was inspired by the delirious experiences of Mr. Pappenheimer’s patients (the Second Life users and their avatars).

Cooper Holoweski, prints from "Engine Brain" series and "Invisible Hand Holding"
Tunneling at Famous Accountants–Cooper Holoweski, prints from “Engine Brain” series and “Invisible Hand Holding”

Famous Accountants was started last fall by Ellen Letcher and Kevin Regan. Kevin, an energetic man with tousled grey hair and beard, describes it as “a labor of love.” It is apparent that for Ellen, a petite woman with cropped blonde hair, and Kevin, the space is an important venue to hold together a large, extended family of Bushwick artists and residents. They pay homage to members of the community that came before them, perhaps most importantly Lady Jaye and Genesis Breyer P-orrdige, the husband and wife duo who together are the artistic entity, Breyer P-orrdige. (The couple is well-known for their mission to make themselves look like each other through a succession of surgical operations). Lady Jaye’s grandmother owned the building until Lady Jaye and Genesis purchased it. Prior to her early death, a result of sudden heart failure related to stomach cancer, Lady Jaye renovated the gallery. Kevin, the admittedly louder of Famous Accountants’ directors, says that he and Ellen “are honored that, on some level, we are fulfilling Lady Jaye’s wishes”.

Jaye envisioned an organic space that would shift for different purposes. And, more or less, this is what Famous Accountants is. Tunneling uses the space like a laboratory, cramming in much disparate media to see what the results might be.

Time is warped, stopped, and chopped throughout. Up close the pieces lose the experience of time as encompassing and continuous, with a few exceptions. The viewer’s experience with the exhibition, particularly with certain pieces, for instance Rico Gatson’s Departure video, which applies a kaleidoscope effect to scenes from Alien, is like watching the broken second hand on a clock that progresses minutely, only to jump backwards, never advancing.

Takuji Kogo, "Nonsites". Flash videos.
Takuji Kogo, “Nonsites”. Flash videos.

This is literally what happens in Takuji Kogo’s video Nonsites, in which clips of individuals or small groups in vacant waiting areas play for one or two seconds then reverse and repeat, performing a jerky dance reminiscent of 90s gif animations. One clip records a man asleep at a dim Chinese food restaurant. The scene is dark and humorless, strange and lonely. While the ceiling fans above gyrate fractions of a circle, the entire image zooms slowly out, getting smaller but revealing a kaleidoscoped pattern of itself. Strangely, Kogo’s video is one of the few pieces that does retain a sense of time moving—one of the few that creates an enterable world. (I would include also the Virta-Flaneurazine program and Cooper Holoweski’s video—a slow, upside-down ride through a digital skyline)

Cooper Holoweski, prints from "Engine Brain" series and "Invisible Hand Holding"
Cooper Holoweski, prints from “Engine Brain” series and “Invisible Hand Holding”

As the fan blades in Kogo’s video meet their kaleidoscoped reflections they create a pattern of rays echoed across the wall in Jen Schwarting’s double dip (black). Forms all over the show morph and collide into each other, suggesting a reality that is multi-dimensional and fragmented. The work in Tunneling feels a bit like a bug got into your computer and made things go awfully awry, forgetting what is real and what is virtual.

Viewing the exhibition on a quiet Sunday the weekend after the opening is a bit like walking onto the set of a play that has already happened. Pieces like Irvin Morazan’s Death of a Ghettoblaster are exoskeletons without the performance. The sense of frenzy throughout Tunneling is produced in large part by work that is frenzied itself and lacks focus. However, this is not the rule and what is provided as an alternative to contemplative concentration is volatile energy. There is plenty to see—plenty of radiating images to compete for attention and Lady Jaye’s spirit reverberates throughout.

Tunneling is only up until September 4th, so see it soon. There is a closing party this Saturday from 6-9pm. Famous Accountants is located at 1673 Gates Avenue, Ridgewood/Bushwick. Open Sundays and by appointment.