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Best of Boston 2009

Distance makes the heart grow fonder

Matthew Day Jackson, Bernadette Devlin, and Zhou Tao at MIT's List Visual Arts Center
By EVAN J. GARZA  |  April 22, 2009

Matthew Day Jackson, Little Boy and Fat Man
Those Bostonians who've been experiencing Bill Arning withdrawals can stop fretting: the former MIT List Visual Arts Center curator, now director of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, is coming home for his final opening. I had reported that the May show would open sans the "cowboy curator," but to my delight (and that of his colleagues and friends) I was mistaken. Arning returns to Cambridge to oversee the installation of "MATTHEW DAY JACKSON: THE IMMEASURABLE DISTANCE," a solo exhibition by the MIT artist-in-residence that opens May 8.

MIT is an appropriate setting for Jackson, whose works focus on the positive and negative aspects of man's relationship to technology. His research at MIT is manifested through video, sculptures, books, photos, "constructed" paintings, and other objects. For this show, he draws heavily on MIT's role in technological progress. Digitally produced, antique-style books offer a facsimile edition of Luminary 1A, the 1400-page document of computer codes developed by MIT and used in the Apollo 11 space mission to land the first men on the moon. Also featured will be August 6, 1945 — aerial views of the city grids of Hiroshima and Washington, DC. Composed of burnt wood and melted lead, this painting series makes less-than-subtle reference to our atomic-bombing of Japan.

Also opening May 8, in the List's Bakalar Gallery, will be "FROM THE COLLECTION: 'BERNADETTE,' A FILM BY DUNCAN CAMPBELL," a 37-minute color and black-and-white portrait of Bernadette Devlin, the Irish Republican activist who was just 21 when, in 1969, she was elected to Parliament. That same year, when she was awarded the keys to the city of New York, she handed them over to the Black Panther Party. Bad-ass enough for you?

While at the List, be sure to check out the current video on the Media Test Wall, "ZHOU TAO: 1, 2, 3, 4." The Guangzhou-based Zhou (who is also featured in the Peabody Essex Museum's current "Mahjong" exhibition) filmed several morning staff meetings of 40 Shanghai-area shops and companies. On paper this might sound like a bore, but the meetings are anything but mundane. Each group of workers, regardless of industry, are lined up in rows, and they proceed to chant, sing, and march in unison, like smiling members of a co-ed Chinese military, in an exercise meant to foster team spirit. But the visual effect, in context of China's political history, is staggering. Filmed in Shanghai for the Seventh Shanghai Biennale, it's not to be missed.

"MATTHEW DAY JACKSON: THE IMMEASURABLE DISTANCE" + "FROM THE COLLECTION: 'BERNADETTE,' A FILM BY DUNCAN CAMPBELL" at MIT List Visual Arts Center, 20 Ames St, Cambridge | May 8–July 12 | 617.254.4680 or// | "ZHOU TAO: 1,2,3,4" at MIT List Visual Arts Center | Through May 11

Related: The Apocalypse versus stupid human tricks, Lost in translation, Loud and clear, More more >
  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Bernadette Devlin, Black Panther Party, Chinese Politics,  More more >
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