The 17-minute animated video Happiness (Finally) After 35,000 Years of Civilization — After Henry Darger and Charles Fourier (1999–2003) takes its cue from the late outsider artist Darger, whose visionary watercolors depict little girls harassed by men resembling Civil War soldiers. (The connection with French philosopher and pioneering feminist advocate Fourier is less explicit.) A white bird flaps over sunny fields. Girls run by, leap into the air, then get on all fours and graze on the grass and flowers. Bugs swarm. The girls have a wild party of dinner and sex in a trailer home. Soldiers shoot their guns and set fire to houses. A naked girl flees. Bodies swing from trees as if in a scene from Goya's Disasters of War. A gale blows. Wounded men rattle in pools of blood. Girls scurry through a cemetery. Gravity fails and broken gravestones float skyward. The animation is herky-jerky, with the characters moving like paper dolls. It's surreal and affecting — but it doesn't much expand on Darger, who is more magnificent and unsettling on his own.
LIGHT: Chan's video suggests the Christian
Rapture, the religious fundamentalism that
fueled the terrorists, and the American
Violence and religion (plus immigration and race) are also the subjects of "Adel Abdessemed: Situation and Practice" at MIT's List Visual Arts Center. In one gallery, the New York–based Algerian artist exhibits a black terra cotta car resting on its side. Cast from a relic of the 2005 riots in the predominantly poor black and North African immigrant Paris suburbs, it also suggests the wreckage of a car bomb. In the video Also Sprach Allah (Thus Spoke Allah), 10 men in a room use a blanket to toss the artist toward the ceiling in a room. Each time, Abdessemed draws a charcoal mark on a rug tacked to the ceiling, until he scrawls out the piece's title. An 11-second video shows the view of a camera dropped from a helicopter 700 meters above Berlin. You glimpse a bit of the city, then a dizzying blur as the camera spins down, until it stops dead. Bombs and Allah and crashing from the sky — I suppose you can sense where this is heading.
A series of photos document Abdessemed bringing animals that used to roam North Africa onto Paris streets: shaggy boars wander a sidewalk, a snake slithers away from a foot pressed on its tail, a mule bucks. The most striking of the bunch is a shot of a lion with the artist preparing, warily, to hug it. But the idea of these stunts is more alluring than the resulting photos, which are kind of dull.
A video shows the artist dangling upside-down on a cable from a helicopter hovering over an open field. He tries to draw on boards laid out on the ground as he swings over them. In the next gallery you see the 10 plywood boards scrawled with random black charcoal squiggles. Whatever.
Two videos feature "famed vocalist" David Moss. In one he shouts and cackles while wearing vampire fangs. Mostly it sounds like insane gibberish, but now and again you catch snippets of "The Star-Spangled Banner," "La Marseillaise," and "God Save the Queen." In a second video, he stands on a city sidewalk wearing a clown nose and madly laughing, growling, and ranting. Again it's mostly nonsense, but at moments he stares into the camera and says, "I am a terrorist." The videos are metaphors for a world driven mad by nationalism, racism, and fears of terrorism.
: Museum And Gallery
, Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Terrorism, More