Tucked in the back of SOIL Art Gallery is a video by Peter Nelson called On Dying. It's simple: one talking head at a time on a stark white background, each person telling a short story. The voices are of old men and women talking about dying—remembering siblings who committed suicide or died in accidents, their expectations for their own deaths ("Heaven will be better."), their struggles to figure out how and where to sleep after husbands and wives die.
But there is a central disconnect. The faces "speaking" these words are young—not children, but people in their twenties, people whose voices should not sound like this and people who do not have these stories to tell.
The stark background isolates the faces and the sounds as the only elements, throwing the tension into immediate relief; there's nothing else to consider. At first you think: These people are acting; what good actors! Then you realize this is not quite the case, that they are not actually speaking but only lip-syncing. The audio-video synchronization, under scrutiny, is noticeably imperfect. But it is also close enough to be uncanny. These "actors"—friends of the artist—have become possessed. They seem to be telling themselves things they will need to know eventually.
Nelson, a photo and video grad student at UW, also has an entire solo show at 4Culture this month. It's called Former Best Friends Forever and is based on his interviews with his own former actual best friends from various periods in his life, represented in the gallery in recordings playing in discrete settings—inside the cab of a Chevy pickup parked in the gallery, on headphones at a work desk. His former BFFs are variously gruntled and disgruntled.