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Video Served Three Ways – Little Berlin, Great and Terrible Collective and Rebekah Templeton

I am sometimes impatient with video art. I complain about the seating (or lack thereof) the tiny screens, weird sounds conflicting as you move from one display to the next, but I am here to sing the joys of three shows where video is a pivotal element. This weekend is your last chance to see the shows at Little Berlin and Great and Terrible Collective, while the wonderful live!infili! at Rebekah Templeton has already finished. These shows include sculpture, drawing, animation, installation, and sound and light displays, but each showcases video in a unique or adventurous way.
Little Berlin
Little Berlin has been transformed into a budget spaceship for your viewing pleasure.

Tyler Kline’s “Cities of the Red Night” at Little Berlin is almost a tribute to the insane drama and goofy production values of Ed Wood’s science fiction. The interior is transformed into a maze of foil walls hiding oddly-sequestered viewing rooms that create the illusion of isolation. The foil waves and creaks in each slight breeze, creating a vortex of movement and sound behind everyone who passes. While sitting or standing with each piece, the eeriness of being lightly buffeted by these almost living walls never left me.

Katie Dillon
Katie Dillon’s installation at Little Berlin will make you a star (or at least as insecure as one.)

The work from the eight artists included all circles around ideas of society in decay and recovery. The first video on display is by Damon Ayers and it documents an abandoned communist airstrip in East Berlin that is being reclaimed by residents as a communal space filled with athletics, activities and community gardens. The scenery is relentlessly bleak, but the activities are universally life-affirming: playing games, roller skating, flying kites. The lovely, jazzy soundtrack by Tessie Word emphasizes this marriage of grey dissolution being reclaimed by vibrant life.

Jim Huebotter
Jim Huebotter’s Mind Machine in action.

Katie Dillon’s installation invites the viewer to step into the spotlight where she is blinded, unable to identify the whispering and malicious audience of speakers. Ryan Spring Dooley’s video animation is lavish with details and transformations that fly too fast to capture. Dooley’s theme seems to be that the further you go, the closer you are to home. And the video imagery is rich with ideas of flight, escape, and return. Jim Huebotter contributed a couple of light and sound pieces that attempt to induce a dream-like state or ephemeral visions. One is a headset that projects light onto the user’s closed eyelids that the artist made from instructions in Make Magazine (with some adjustments.) Overall, curator Tyler Kline, who also has work in the show, has created an artist’s funhouse, playing with space and sound and light. Other artists included are Sean Stoops, Joseph Moore, and Sam Belkowitz.

Great and Terrible
Great and Terrible Collective’s homey atmosphere.

Great and Terrible Collective’s “I Got Rosacea Just for this Party” presents a completely different approach to video and display. The show, curated by Dana M. Osburn, is set in a Kensington living room where each TV has a chair in front of it so viewers can sit and watch the videos with the intensity of a Saturday morning. “Wipe Outlet” by Sarah Mooney features cartoon dinosaurs heading out to a big box store to buy a selection of wipes that range from butt wipes to anti-aging, cholesterol, and lobster wipes. My notes from watching Mooney’s next video, “Hello,” read “Clay people and a paper guy in a boat, in a nut, painting trees. Cheese on a toothbrush. We were angels.” I think that’s a pretty accurate recap.

Sarah Mooney
A scene from Sarah Mooney’s “Wipe Outlet”

Kristina Centore’s “Pup” shows a claymation girl begging her parents for a dog. After a mildly frightening tantrum they relent and give her a dog that proceeds to eat her. The out of tune and hostile version of Fur Elise on the soundtrack is particularly apropos for anyone forced into piano lessons at a certain age. Centore’s “Young Lives” is even more blood thirsty with two golum-like children in a fight that escalates through decapitation and dismemberment and just continues into a fade out with the boys’ skeletons still fighting and a soft voice saying “blood, blood, blood.” These vignettes perfectly mimic the Sunday cartoons that had lower production values and higher morality content than the much more loved Saturday fare. Except, of course, for their intense and remorseless outcomes.

Kristina Centore
Kristina Centore’s “Pup” just before it gets bloody.

Angela O’s wall-sized drawings complete the aura of humor, childishness and cute horror. One panel is full of dozens of odd doodles that are sweet and heartless. As a whole the show is very funny and personal, easily invoking childhood and its inherent goriness. While these images and cartoons are much more violent than those from my childhood, they actually get the feeling right. Lots of those cartoons scared me back then. But they were funny and mysterious too.

Jason Gandy
Jason Gandy’s “ATIXIPDIO”

At the other end of the video spectrum is the wonderful collection of sculptures by Jason Gandy at Rebekah Templeton. Gandy has created a number of intricate objects, many with video embedded inside them, that make for another unique viewing experience. A lovingly crafted wood-panel skull has a peephole embedded in its forehead where the viewer can peer in to see a 3D projection of fish and knife circling each other in an endless chase. A wooden frame holds a stereoscopic desert scene that on close inspection includes the eroded bones from a human hand that are twitching in the desert winds. The animated skeletal hand and rocks are sculptural elements hidden inside the frame and posed against the cinematic backdrop.

Jason Gandy
Jason Gandy’s “Operation: Skafoid”, click to enlarge and see the skeletal hand in the foreground.

There are a number of great pieces in the show, which is Gandy’s first solo show in Philadelphia and his first with Rebekah Templeton. There’s a Buddha with a beating heart, a huge porthole attached to the wall, and a window display that is like a womb or cocoon. Each has strong video components that enhance the sculptures, bringing them to life and pulling the viewer into a deeper relationship with the piece.

Jason Gandy
View through the ship’s porthole.

The best example is a lovely wooden ship seemingly run aground on a sand-covered pedestal. The ship, ATIXPDIO, is only about 11 inches long, but has been meticulously constructed from tiny wooden boards with no windows or openings along the sides. On the back end is a tiny peephole and by bending to an awkward height the viewer can look in to see the rounded interior. Inside walks a man in armor, bending and pacing in the cavernous emptiness. The video was shot during a performance by the artist. Gandy created the armor out of wood and paced inside the constructed ship’s body that he had built in his attic. The project has taken him ten years to complete and it definitely shows. Crouched over, one eye shut, squinting uncomfortably into the ship at this wooden soldier pacing alone, I was mesmerized. In fact I still am.