The “hyper aliveness,” as my former painting instructor liked to call it, that artists, from time to time, are privileged enough to experience in the pursuit of a vision, rarely survives in the work itself, let alone in the re-contextualization that occurs in the dubious function of the group exhibition. Perhaps because I was unprepared for the experience, that such caprice occurred during the opening of the group show, “As X Approaches Infinity,” the debut curatorial effort at Krowswork, Oakland’s very first palindromic video and photography space, by gallerist Jasmine Moorhead.
The press release appropriately quotes Kierkegaard, who wrote, “the only thing that can save [man] is the absurd, and this he grasps by faith.” If that, at first thought, seems paradoxical, then this show is the right place to find the paradox enlivened.
My favorite photographer in the show, Adam Wier, is a good artist with which to begin transversing the gallery rooms, which feel unshakably like the dream of a hidden narrator. Even while, in Wier’s photographs, the discarded junk on the sidewalk transforms into solar systems or particle collisions or the splitting of cells, we hear a rising tension of pig grunts, slowed reverse utterances, the clicking of metal things emanating from other rooms. Curiosity rewards us.
RKDB’s lurid video installation, “Unfair,” a weird pun, reveals from behind a curtain, the man-pig in the control room, the shaman clown who unintelligibly reads our futures from some secret Lynchian center. To sit in the tent on bails of hay, a clever aesthetic consideration, as the audience of this mythical rural fair does, we can’t help but cringe as the shaman, played by RKDB himself, gives birth by regurgitation to what is either the skeleton of yesterday’s lunch or the prognosticated self returning to a state of the unborn. Pragmatically, we could ask, is there a difference?
When “Unfair” ends, the novice (here shall I volunteer to fit the description) progresses deeper into the cave, the final reveal, the surprising congregational seating with its padded church pews and its altar, the projection screen. The impious exquisite corpse that blooms within this ten-video loop is a kaleidoscopic explosion of dancing Buddhas, giant arms that forgive sins with a punch, telepathic phone calls, upside-down carnival rides, a naked man, his movements in reverse as he gets comfortable with a life-size infinity symbol, which seems, ironically, to limit his movements, bunnies, deer (where don’t you find bunnies and deer in art these days?), and everywhere, the presence of eyes, which we humans seem to find in everything (Hubble photos of a helix nebula famously deemed the “Eye of God” come to mind). Vokan Ergen’s “Psychic Communication I,” the most beautifully shot of them, could work as a title for the first volume of a hypothetical Krowswork DVD series. Let’s hope.
As X Approaches Infinity is on view at Krowswork in Oakland through January 10.