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Enter the Trans-Urban
NY ARTs review November 20, 2003
By Laura Lee Pederson

From a graffiti-mapped commute to a faux cigarette commercial, Brooklyn-based Turf's fall 2003 film project, Film @ 33 incorporated 14 artists, 3 installations, and 17 screened projects arranged thematically in 4 segments. Each self-contained segment worked in much the same way as rooms in a group show. With separate themes, each cluster featured emerging talent approaching film making from various vantage points, from the process-oriented to the message-driven to polished cultural observations.

Exiting the elevator into the rough space, the viewer is immediately confronted with a piece created in the same building. Alyssa Orvis's installation Rut, an assemblage from Super 8 and video, is accompanied by a quick-paced metronomic ticking. A suspended monitor screens high-contrast black and white clips of a woman pacing, exiting a fire escape to an industrial rooftop, sucking down a cigarette. The fast edits and tick-tocking sound elicit a sense of nervous nothingness. Meanwhile the larger screen reveals a macro-view of a rusted freight elevator incessantly slamming up and down between floors without opening.

Wending down the hall toward the screening room, the chaos of Stephan Apicella-Hitchcock's A Drawn-out Conflict becomes audible. In a feature-length montage of the movies Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Wild Style the viewer is faced with a 1982 battle of east coast versus west coast. From love scenes to credits, the plots of the two films overlap at all the major benchmarks revealing the formulaic style of both hit movies. A full viewing of A Drawn-out Conflict edges toward the schizophrenic, but in smaller doses, the tapestry is like a well-deejayed audio-visual experience.

The screening proper opens with Cluster One. This grouping is arranged around the idea of the artist's interaction with, in, and commuting out of the City. Grady Gerbracht and Jill Magid capture elements from their commute: Gerbracht traces the contours of passing scenery on his bus window in Commutes: NJ Transit series, and Magid drags the Empire State Building with her in a small mirror. As she drives, the bouncing reflection of the City's icon slices the industrial landscape in Suburbia. Legoland, a second work by Magid, features the Surveillance Shoe, a hybridization of surveillance hardware and a pair of high-heels. The view afforded from the vantage point of the shoe camera is a short frilly skirt and legs—the flesh pillars echo form while contrasting in scale and texture to the surrounding steel skyscrapers. Dina Weiss and Chris Habib's pedestrian recordings document the block. Chris Habib's 3 Blocks, 3 Minutes is a study of a walk with a video camera, a flashlight, and a blackout.

Cluster Two progresses from social commentary couched in humor to a resonating post-911 work. Marguerite Kahrl's Grim Tale and Intruder are enacted by the artist's characters, Meek and Timid Action Figures. Kahrl's politically conscious fables convey the idea that the nuclear industry is what we are passing on to future generations. A short documentary with subtitles, Uri Bar-On's 72 Virgins is hilarious in its understated style. Interviewees admit willingness (initially reluctant, finally eager) to provide fellatio to the required world leaders in exchange for peace. Picking up on the theme of peace and memory, the rest of the cluster takes a meditative and somber turn. Integrating memory and loss, JoJo Whilden's I shall forget you makes a montage of 900 of the artist's photographs played back at 30 frames per second. The cacophony of images is the length of a sigh. Pia Lindman pairs a time-lapse sequence, Viewing Platform at the World Trade Center Site, with a second video, Waterline. Both are underscored by Bridge, a sound track of waves buoying the camera as it films the significant site.

Cluster Three features three works by Chris Habib. The only segment devoted to a single artist, Habib's work stands apart for its powerful well-conceived sound. Naked Pavement, a short documentary on Spencer Tunick's process, and Nurvus Crucifix (Matthew Barney had a vein full of Draino and all I got was this lousy shirt), both interpret the experience of another artist's work. Nurvus Crucifix renders text from an interview with Matthew Barney as a droning monotone voice discussing his work, from Vaseline to Jackass the Movie, played over a hysterical episode and banshee screeching. A Pot with a Cover, with a Pot in the Cover has a lingering electronic voice accompanying a stark black and white image of a woman washing in a bathtub of ink.

In Cluster Four, Rory Hanrahan's Fillmore Lights and Liselot van der Heijden's Monument Valley, are complimented by Valerie Nolan's adjoining installation, Cowboy, all dealing with perceptions of the American West as seen from the international vantage point of these artists. In the most narrative grouping in the series, Fillmore Lights follows the making of a cigarette ad. The pathetic lead, a working class guy in a cowboy hat and white sneakers, is a frustrated and believable mockery of the Marlboro Man. Complete with a cigarette jingle and a Hollywood sheen, Fillmore discloses the Industry surrounding the Myth of the Cowboy. Liselot van der Heijden's Monument Valley appropriates footage from the documentary of the making of The Searchers which is interspersed with scenes of modern day dumpy tourists viewing the same landscape. The tourist's camera shots splice back to the gunshots in the Western. In Valerie Nolan's 8 mm projection, Cowboy, a shadowed figure enacted by the artist saunters out onto mainstage, is shot, looses his hat, falls dead, and the loop repeats the cycle of the internationally known stereotype.

Intermissions in the program included light-spirited projects by John Landewe (Red White Spin) and Daniel Jarosch and Falko Purner (Captain Mosquito and the Vicious Marsupial). Turf, Trans Urban Roaming Forum, was initiated with the idea in mind that there are still not enough places around to take risks with unshown artists and untried curators. Turf—a project room without a room—was formed to facilitate a forum for emerging artists and curators in borrowed spaces. This was Turf's third project this season, and its resounding success suggests that there may just be a need for yet one more venue for emerging artists.

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