EFFACED 1: Denise Marika’s images are charged but don’t always add up to more than the sum of their parts.
For several months, Georgie Friedman has been collaborating with a couple of friends in Oregon who've been launching high-altitude balloons bearing cameras into the stratosphere. Now the Jamaica Plain artist finally debuts this æsthetic research in her show at Carroll and Sons.
Above the Clouds screens each evening until 10 pm in the 12 windows of the Carroll and Sons and Anthony Greaney galleries along Harrison Avenue (through February 26). It's not clear exactly what you're seeing, but there is footage of the curving blue horizon between atmosphere above and earth below captured by the spinning balloon camera. This becomes a too simple blue blur, but the panoramic installation itself is a marvel and gives the curious sensation that the glowing Earth and space are contained inside the building.
Friedman's works can be breathtaking in video installations with sharp, specific footage. In some recent exhibits, however, she hasn't nailed that electric combination of footage and presentation. Her walk-in wave at last winter's DeCordova Biennial was a cool installation, but the watery footage projected onto the structure felt too simple and abstract. Her geyser video at Boston College during the 2009 Boston Cyberarts Festival screened sharp footage on mundane monitors.
Here, Seas and Skies, which wowed viewers as an installation at her MFA thesis show at Tufts in 2008, screens on a monitor inside Carroll and Sons. It's a split-screen shot: clouds slowly drift by on top while waves roll below. The waves regularly crest and crash with a stomach-turning roller-coaster drop. It's obvious that these are separate shots, but Friedman has a knack for sharp juxtapositions that make the two feel like one. The footage is cramped on a modest-sized monitor, but the kinetic contrast between the slow clouds and the quick waves is striking. And the rigid line dividing the two looks like the edge of the world.
Denise Marika of Brookline, another one of our premier local video artists, knows how to create visceral, symbolic actions. Her show at Axiom in 2007 projected footage of what seemed to be a body wrapped in a shroud rolling down stairs with a gut-wrenching thump, thump, thump. This image of the shroud-wrapped body, which appears again in her new show at Howard Yezerski Gallery (through February 8), reflects her concern with massacres and genocide, from the Holocaust to South America's desaparecidos to Pol Pot's murderous Cambodia.
The main event here is Marika's 19-minute video Effaced 1. Hands knead clothing in a bucket of what looks like purple dye. (Marika's idea is that washing the clothing just gets it more soiled.) In another shot, words flit atop rolling waves: " . . . people fled the people fled the people fled . . . " That's followed by an abstract shot of what turns out to be sand. A booted foot kicks a body, unrolling it out of a shroud and dumping it into beach surf. Nine persons in white clothing root around among broken branches on a dirt hill. They seem to hurl red pigment at one another; then more red pigment followed by white and black is flung onto the group from outside the camera frame. It reads like gunshots and blood. The footage of the body and the rooting group are charged, but the images don't add up to more than the sum of their parts.