Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga

Structural Patterns

Reflections on Art, Technology and Society

…OUT OF HERE: The Veterans Project, Wodiczko at Galerie Lelong

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Since hearing that Krzysztof Wodiczko had a new installation at Galerie Lelong in Chelsea, NYC, I had been looking forward to seeing the show, unfortunately it was underwhelming. I’m a fan of Wodiczko, particularly his earlier works – the vehicles and other sculptural objects activated by participatory street interaction. …OUT OF HERE: The Veterans Project is a black box installation that presents a row of windows framing a blue sky. The windows and sky are video projections near the ceiling of the gallery and the intention is to place the viewer within an architectural space, looking out to the sky. Throughout the gallery ceiling speakers are suspended so that the viewer can hear street sounds.
Wodiczko's ...OUT OF HERE: The Veterans Project

The installation is essentially a video loop. Initially all the windows are intact and one can hear vehicles and voices, a background of street sounds. Then one hears a helicopter approaching and along the windows projected onto one wall of the gallery, the black silhouette of the helicopter appears and moves across the windows. Then from speakers opposite of the helicopter projection, one hears a ball bouncing and sees the ball reach the top of its arch along the a row of windows. The primary sounds are that of a boy playing with a ball that goes on to break one of the windows, there is some parental yelling in Arabic as the boy plays. Soon there are new voices, in English, military voices giving orders and searching for a target followed by the sound of bullets. There is shooting, windows breaking, people screaming, a cacophony of war like sounds followed by silence and then the loop restarts…

I wish that I could say that the installation effectively transported me into a new space and presented me with the horror of warfare and the sense of being a helpless target, but as the silence ended by the sound of the helicopter and the sequence of virtual events reinitiated, it all just seemed like trite theatrics. Within the confines of a blue chip gallery in Chelsea New York, the installation rings hollow and one is left wondering what is the point?

Wodiczko’s work has always employed a sense of theater and monumentality, whether it’s the quirky designs of his sculptures or the larger than life video projections. But the theatricality of large scale projection on the street has an innate immediacy whereas within the confines of a commercial gallery, the immediacy is muted. According to the exhibition’s press release, the installation is “based on interviews and encounters with veterans and civilians from Iraq and Afghanistan,” I wonder what these people’s reactions are to their experiences being represented in this form. Is it meaningful? Does the installation present some potentiality in relation to their lives? Or is it merely a slick gallery display?

In general, I question the goal of presenting politicized art in commercial galleries or in the white box in general. Wodiczko’s installation left me with a strong sense of the irrelevance of gallery art in relation our world and the complex issues that our present society confronts or chooses to ignore or misuse.

Written by ricardo

March 19th, 2011 at 9:08 am