American Life | Chicago Reader

American Life

A program of three videos from the Whitney Museum of American Art's biennial exhibition. Nic Nicosia's Middletown is an amusing motor ride through a suburblike landscape; obnoxious, repetitive music that's a bit too lilting to be Muzak underlines the sameness of it all. When the vehicle stops for a pedestrian near the end, the acknowledgment of a human form is strange; in such terrain humans seem incongruous. Consuming Spirits: Part One, an enigmatic, somewhat autobiographical three-character narrative, is actually a work in progress; filmmaker Chris Sullivan says the completed feature-length work (which will be shown on film) will be a little less “surreal.” What I found most intriguing was its mix of different animations; Sullivan intercuts moving models that represent cars on a street with cutouts of speaking characters, creating a lively heterogeneity that questions all forms of representation. The form of Robin Bernat's Effortless: Three Preludes by Chopin is by now quite cliched: a voice on the sound track telling a personal story is paired with “poetic” images, in this case of a lawn sprinkler.

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