On view at Locks Gallery through July 26
By Sarah Burford
Locks Gallery’s Mirrors, Marks & Loops, featuring new video works by collaborative artists Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib, greets the viewer with a curious whirring sound upon stepping into the gallery. The sound’s source emits from a 16 mm film projector which casts a peculiar image upon the wall, where a chunk of gleaming pyrite (or “fool’s gold”) is suspended, continually revolving in midair against the backdrop of a forest. An ambivalent material that is simultaneously attractive, deceptive, and mutable, fool’s gold conjures associations that underscore the themes evoked throughout this diverse collection of works, which immerse the viewer in a wealth of eclectic sound and imagery. In Mirrors, Marks & Loops, Hironaka and Suib explore the complex truths and deceptions of historical narratives, the artistic process of marking and delineating the world around us, and the imaginative, fantastic potential of analog and digital video media.
In the aforementioned piece, Exploded View, surreal imagery is facetiously played against material reality. The image of fool’s gold signals the potentially illusive, constructed nature of what may pass before the camera’s lens and the viewer’s gaze. Juxtaposing the uncanny vision of this levitating mineral and its physical display upon the gallery wall, the combination of two- and three-dimensional media in the piece serves to underscore the work’s complex interplay between the real and the fantastic. This is further evoked by an additional element of the installation, hidden in a darkened corner of the gallery. Cut off by a curtain, the viewer steps inside the space, where the image of a floating, sparkling, revolving nugget of pyrite is projected onto the back wall. A disembodied voice delivers a monologue (written by Nabil Kashyap) that, when heard standing inside the pitch-black space, appears to be eerily emitting from the wedge of fool’s gold itself. Hironaka and Suib are known for creating large-scale, immersive installations of moving images, and in Exploded View the artists directly engage the viewer’s bodily presence in order to activate the piece’s illusory, enigmatic imagery.
Juxtapositions of the real and the fantastical are also explored onscreen in Post-Perceptual Exercise #1 and #2, two videos documenting artists’ practice in the studio. The videos are interspersed with hazy images of landscapes, text flashing across the screen, and passages by Umberto Eco read aloud by each artist. The physical, material process of drawing and painting is further augmented through the incorporation of digital technology; swaths of red paint and cutout shapes float up from their flat surfaces to overwhelm the video screen, eclipsing the viewer’s gaze. Like Exploded View’s use of both two- and three-dimensional elements in its installation, in Post-Perceptual Exercise #1 and #2, projected images onscreen are rendered sculptural, the illusionistic made material, further blurring the boundaries between artistic imagination and everyday experience. The artists also explore the formal possibilities of the moving image inAscension (with Cat), a work projected to completely fill the gallery’s back wall. Stock footage of playing cards, a cat, leaves, dollar bills, coins, rose petals, and other quotidian objects perpetually float upwards towards the ceiling, continually looped in a hypnotic filmic pastiche.
The works Continuous Moment Part 1 and Routine Maintenance consider the political implications of the video medium’s imaginative potential. In Continuous Moment Part 1, Hironaka and Suib act as intercessors in history, creating a fictional narrative in which the conceptual Italian firm Superstudio’s 1969 Continuous Monument—a glass-covered, gridded structure designed to spread across the world in a critique of architecture as a formal structure of power—has actually been realized. Shots of Niagara Falls, desert terrain, and urban landscapes covered with the glassy structure, newly adopted by corporate buildings across the globe, underscore the hollow, homogenized face of this dystopian topography. Altering an iconic shot from Woody Allen’s film Manhattan, Hironaka and Suib overlay a gorgeous black-and-white view of the Manhattan Bridge with the Continuous Monument’s gridded edifice, humorously interrogating film and video’s constructed nature, inventive possibilities, and their resultant artistic and ideological implications.
In Routine Maintenance, Superstudio’s imagined structure sits in the desert, continually buffed and cleaned by a single window-washer. The monument’s reflected landscape displays the slow progression of the sun, and clouds continually moving across the sky in the background. At one point in the piece, a bird caws and crashes directly into the monument before flying away, taken in by its illusion and then repelled back into reality. As in the artists’ exploration of fool’s gold, Continuous Moment Part 1 offers an ambiguous warning, reminding the viewer to question the limits of one’s vision, understanding, and perception.
In this diverse array of new works, Hironaka and Suib interrogate possibilities of the moving image as both a document of reality and an expression of fantasy, as truth and deception, escape and critique. Experimenting with these themes, they challenge the viewer’s conventional modes of perception in the process.
Sarah Burford is a student in the MA/PhD program in History of Art at Bryn Mawr College. She is currently a research assistant at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, and has previously worked at the Jewish Museum and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.