ART REVIEW | ‘Spectacle’ causes headaches

Upon entering the art gallery inside the School of Art’s 32 Edgewood Ave. Gallery, viewers should be cautious: Sirens, jarring beats and screams will ring through your ears for the duration of your stay.

The pulsing music, which is featured in the new exhibit “Infinitesimal Eternity: Images Made in the Face of Spectacle,” is one of many installations designed to thrust the viewer into a world known as “The Spectacle.”

The Spectacle, an idea put forth by the Situationist International art group in the mid-1960s, describes the transformation of everyday life into a constant attack of technology and mass media, made worse by capitalism’s control over goods and services. It was originally associated with a lifestyle consumed by leisure, mass media and consumerism.

By translating these written ideas into a visual and auditory medium, the show uses the work of 13 postmodern artists to illuminate the obscure ideas of the Situationist group. The metallic, nonsense rhythm echoing throughout the art gallery and the disjointed, intense pieces induce a state of uncomfortable confusion for the viewer.

But the presence of a migraine may mark the success of the curator and artists, who aspired to create a sense of what they call “unresolved” anxiety by exacerbating the atmosphere we experience in our everyday lives.

The goal, as School of Art professor and co-curator George Rush wrote in a pamphlet about the exhibit, is to explore the relationship between human impulses and the technological world.

“These works remind us of this relationship as it pertains toother various spectacular interfaces we encounter today, from the computer desktop to video monitors to the touch screens used for everyday talks like paying for groceries or extracting money from an ATM,” Rush wrote.

The show, however, does not live up to the complex and stimulating ideas that are scattered throughout the booklet.

Only a few pieces, such as Cory Arcangel’s interactive video installation “Drei Klavierstücke,” strike a chord with the viewer — expressing a relationship between seeing, touching, and the screens and devices associated with the spectacle.

“This is often an area I work in, and coincided perfectly with a new video of mine Drei Klavierstücke op. 11 (2009),” Arcangel wrote in an e-mail message. “This video consists of cats playing atonal music, which is by definition Spectacle from a position of ambivalence.”

But elsewhere the work does not present the idea of spectacle as an integrated part of our culture; instead, the pieces merely appear as concepts without deeper meaning.

Tony Matelli’s “Untitled” is simply a white paint bucket, filled with water and urethane, adorned with floating pennies, nickels and quarters.

Other pieces, such as a wide screen TV that display Saab, Ford and other car commercials with loud, abrasive music in the background, offer blatant examples of how mass media is invading our everyday life.

But they also make staying in the gallery for a long time painful, if not impossible.

“Infinitesimal Eternity” will be on display until Oct. 24.

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