Sympathetic Magic: Video Myths and Rituals
Sympathetic Magic: Video Myths and Rituals, a group exhibition of time based work organized by curator Catherine Taft opens at the Armory Center for the Arts’ main Caldwell Gallery on Saturday, January 22, 2011, 7 - 9pm. This group exhibition dealing with themes relating to myth and ritual, will feature works from 1974 through the present by video artists Neil Beloufa, Nancy Buchanan, Spencer Douglass and Gustavo Herrera, Naotaka Hiro, Ulysses Jenkins, Aaron Garber-Maikovska, Cynthia Maughan, Nikhil Murthy, Catherine Ross, Marnie Weber, and Bruce and Norman Yonemoto with Mike Kelley.
In anthropology, archeology, and other sciences, the term “sympathetic magic” is used to describe a belief system in which supernatural powers are ascribed to certain inanimate objects. In many ways, the video image could be considered a form of sympathetic magic; within its flickering frame, a parallel world is signified, invoked, and believed. This exhibition examines modes of storytelling, ritual, everyday magic, and repetition through video art. It includes works that investigate traditional representations of cultural belief and folklore as seen in Ulysses Jenkins’ The Nomadics, a piece about the evolution of the African Diaspora and global parallels within its cultures; Neil Beloufa’s dislocating and other worldly video Kempinski, which poses questions about the future to Malian people; the Yonemoto brothers and Mike Kelley’s retelling of the Oedipus myth via the legendary Japanese creature Kappa – a sexualized trickster known to prey on woman and children; and Nikhil Murthy’s They Ship the Water in Every Day,, in which characters from an idyllic Garden of Eden meet those from a postapocalyptic badlands inside a Los Angeles laundromat.
Also explored are more experimental takes on the transcendent side of human experience as with the performative activities of Aaron Garber-Maikovska, who uses his own body to strip meaning from the sounds, signs and gestures of human communication; Naotaka Hiro, who, in his Super 8 film transfers, communes with a skull by packing it with rice in a ritualistic manner as if to give new life to the form; and Marnie Weber’s video The Campfire Song in which her rock group, The Spirit Girls, evoke oral tradition though campfire tales where animals come to life.
Other artists explore aspects of contemporary society through modern day myths drawn from popular culture, i.e. film, television, and print media. In Cynthia Maughan’s short vignettes from 1974-78, the artist draws from horror films, sci-fi, pulp fiction, and American folklore to reveal a wickedly dark sense of humor juxtaposed by a pointed feminine subjectivity. Nancy Buchanan and Catherine Ross take references from television; Buchanan looks at the narrative structure of a generic action movie plot overlaid with poetic images that connote various emotions, while Ross edits together clips from 1950s and ‘60s sitcoms (i.e. Bewitched) where inanimate objects seem to hover and move on their own through the magic of television. Finally, collaborative duo Spencer Douglass and Gustavo Herrera present an animated collage and video installation Buffalo Mierda, a dynamic visual mash-up of newspaper and magazine clippings that create a cultural amalgam that spills out of the video frame and into the gallery space.
About the Curator:
Catherine Taft is a critic and curator based in Los Angeles. Her essays on contemporary art and culture appear regularly in publications such as Artforum, Modern Painters, ArtReview, Metropolis-M, Kaleidoscope, and in exhibition catalogs in the U.S. and abroad. In addition to her writing, Taft is Curatorial Associate in the Department of Architecture and Contemporary Art the Getty Research Institute, where she helped organize the 2008 exhibition, California Video. Among other projects, she is currently working on the exhibition and research initiative acific Standard Time: Art in Los Angeles 1945-1980, a collaboration of more than 50 ultural institutions across Southern California, which will open in October 2011.
The exhibition will open alongside two concurrent installations in the Armory’s Mezzanine Gallery; The Ruins of Daedalus’ Labyrinth by sculptor Nuttaphol.