City Paper is not for tourists
On its own, a video of a nearly static face isn’t that interesting. But in “A Theatre of Objects” at Flashpoint, Andy Holtin subverts expectations of what the medium normally does; in one case, he even integrates the screen into the video’s action.
In “Glance,” two faces, one male and one female, stare out from television screens on the wall. When the man glances left at the woman, the screen containing his image turns with his gaze. As he returns his head forward, the monitor again faces out. When the woman turns right, her screen also moves in tandem. Holtin has anthropomorphized his video equipment, having it behave like people, not monitors.
“You Made This Happen” also relies on the behavior of the equipment to energize a video recording. Here, two projections show the same performer, Enrico Wey, sitting, standing, and moving around a table. The projections merge and separate at regular intervals—and in the latter form, the videos are purposefully boring. But when the projections merge, they become captivating, not least because there’s now an element of chance: Simple actions become a complex choreography between two dancers.
By programming screens and projections to move, Holtin forces a relationship between them, making them appear to interact with each other. But in his third piece in “A Theatre of Objects,” he turns his attention from movement to proximity.
“Passage” is composed of screens, but they don’t move. Instead, they’re aligned in clusters of two, three, or four, with each screen displaying a piece of the same setting: an anonymous white hallway that appears to extend across multiple monitors. Performers Kelly Bond and Benjamin Wegman walk through the passage, varying the directions they enter and exit and what they do in front of the camera. Observing the two-screen cluster, I saw Wegman chase Bond left to right across a screen. As Bond ran off the left screen, I expected her to appear on the right. She didn’t; only Wegman, now walking, passed into the second monitor. When Bond did re-appear, it was in the left monitor again, walking away from the right. It’s like watching a chase in Looney Tunes, only more seductive—an effect that’s multiplied by the work’s in-the-round staging: You catch glimpses of Bond and Wegman’s hijinks in your peripheral vision. Because the loops in “Passage” don’t line up, the work finds an infinity of relationships between two otherwise fixed performances.
Years of watching television has conditioned us with a set of expectations, one of which is that moving images behave in certain narrative ways. By looping his videos asynchronously, and by taking a couple of subtle sculptural approaches—proximity, overlap, motion—Holtin successfully upsets our assumptions about how storylines flow. Everything changes. Though the performers’ action remain simple, the results are satisfyingly unexpected.