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TO NOV. 22
Veteran art-and-politics provocateurs Bradley McCallum and Jacqueline Tarry document homeless youth in Seattle in a moving two-part project titled “Civic Endurance.” The series of still portraits, done in life-size color, are uninspired, anti-fashion shots à la Benetton (Billy is pictured); the 130-minute DVD, by contrast, is conceptually and emotionally riveting. On its most basic level, “Civic Endurance” documents civil disobedience: A succession of 26 homeless residents poseeach motionless for an houron a street corner, thus contravening a city statute designed to target vagrants. On another level, the work chronicles what would be a feat of endurance for anyone, let alone for those with drug problems. The DVD’s soundtrack offers a running confessional, as the pictured youths explaineloquently and often heartbreakinglytheir experiences with chemical dependence, their wretched childhoods, and the street crime they endure. Despite the two hours of discussion, one senses that there’s more left unsaid about why such smart, motivated kids are still on the street. (They brought the artists into the project, not the other way around.) But the central achievement of “Civic Endurance” is its bracing visuals. Like Godfrey Reggio in his 1982 film Koyaanisqatsi, McCallum and Tarry find poetry in ordinary action sped up to hyper levels; but, unlike Reggio, “Civic Endurance” effectively pairs the swirling chaos with the youths’ static motionlessness. At one point, a strung-out subject leans over and suddenly unleashes a stream of vomit. She cleans it up using a pitcher of water, and the water itself slowly evaporates as the day wears onan emblematic moment for a work that is both subtle and powerful. The show is on view from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, to Saturday, Nov. 22, at Conner Contemporary Art, 1730 Connecticut Ave. NW. Free. (202) 588-8750. (Louis Jacobson)