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Members show at Squeaky Wheel

Vince Mistretta's video sculpture.

Video Games

Seventeen video artworks, a hands-on video manipulation setup, and a “video sculpture” are on display in the first annual members show at Squeaky Wheel. Something for every taste, just about, from straightforward exposition on corporate environmental devastation in Latin America to a delightful musical cartoon to several visual/aural anarchy pieces.

The corporate environmental devastation piece is by Chris Pierce McCleary and is called El Agua Vale Más Que El Oro, water is more precious than gold. It is about a community in Argentina that gets its water from a nearby mountain range that also contains gold and silver and other minerals. Mining corporations come in, work their mines for 10 or 15 years, take the minerals, and leave, as the narrator describes it, just a hole in the mountain and the water toxic from the chemical residue of their operations. It’s a long story—or history—going back to the original conquistadores, who the narrator points out came to the region looking for gold and silver. “It’s what motivated them to come this far,” he says. The video is about the environmental issue, but also about community activism at the grassroots level that has been ineffectual thus far in changing the prevalent mining practices. But the hope is in the future, in substantial efforts to teach the young people of the community about “the value of water, air, the pueblo, the earth.”

A somewhat similar piece but different—same enlightened outlook, but different approach—is by Julia FreeHand, called We Are Water and Energy Too! A fast-paced collage of tantalizing factoids and brief disquisition on various forms and sources and manifestations of energy, from radiation to electricity to sugar to dance. With warning labels on all except dance.

A totally charming little cartoon piece by Liz Van Verth, called Par Avion, is about the life and afterlife of postcards from Paris, which become cherished mementos for an old woman who years before may have been one of the senders (this isn’t quite clear, perhaps on purpose). The visual aspect of the work—pleasant scenes and gentle people, all in soft pastel colors—matches the aural, Claude Debussy’s intensely beautiful Girl with the Flaxen Hair, in an excellent piano rendition by the video creator.

Debora Bernagozzi’s piece is a video production setup with manipulation control apparatus you get to operate. What you see on a screen is part footage of an old Alice in Wonderland movie and part you—the observer observed—and you can manipulate some parameters—color tone, for example—a little. (Maybe more for someone who knew what he was doing.)

The “video sculpture” is by Vince Mistretta and consists of a small television monitor amid broken car window glass, as if there’d been a crash, and here was this unlikely sole survivor, still going, showing an Italian movie about life and death—the poverty and hardship, the daily and longer-term rituals, secular and religious, to the end of survival—in a small peasant village in a remote mountainous terrain. I found the movie, despite that it cried for editing, at least as compelling as the “sculpture.” The part I liked best was where the rickety little camion bearing men in Roman soldier dress arrives for the Calvary procession and parks on a steep incline right across from the wooden-fenced pen containing a hundred or so goats waiting for the goatherd to come and take them off to pasture for the day. The Roman soldiers disembark and head off to their procession, whereupon, a minute or so later, as if on cue, the camion parking brake fails and it rolls down the hill backwards and crashes through the pen fence, releasing the goats, which then pretty much take over the village for the day. The goats get everywhere, including into the apartment of the old goatherd, who is dying, and dies, surrounded by his goats, climbing on his table, climbing on his bed. Why he didn’t come to pasture them that day. The first time ever.

Jess Printup’s SQ 2012 is a frenetic barrage of abstracts in black and white, with soundtrack to match. Avi Albert’s Monte Pythonish Zilla is only 28 seconds long, but still manages to incorporate two endings. Matthew Hardesty’s very brief narrative works, Parents (38 seconds) and Running on Empty (47 seconds), are like vignettes of vignettes. But less is more. You get what’s going on. Whereas, in Sam Avery’s mysterious LocoMotive—with men in masks, and apes, and smoky ambience—you don’t get what’s going on.

Two are dance works: one by Jim Bush, danced by Stacy Van Vlar, to the joyous music of her poem about herself as a dancer; one by Richard Wicka, danced by Erin Bahn, at random locations around the city, such as the old Memorial Aud site and the Masten Avenue Armory. When Wicka realizes they are not far from the old Dodge Street seminary for prospective priests—a place he was once familiar with, but hasn’t visited in some years—and talks Erin into a quick detour there. The place is a shambles, fallen ceilings, broken glass, copious graffiti. Not such a safe place to be. But when you do art, the muses protect you, is his theory. It works for a while, and they explore and get out. Safe and sound. Don’t push the muses.

The members’ show continues through November 17.

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