Inside The Alice gallery last weekend, I was immersed.
There are five different sound and video installations by five different artists, brought together and arranged as though in conversation by curator Molly Mac. There is no theme. Instead there's a thick atmosphere where one experience colors another and another. I had the feeling I could stay in there for a long time drawing out connections.
In the first video I encountered, the artist Katherine Behar was on the screen but I didn't see her. She was hidden inside a blobby pink suit, impersonating obese big data by stumbling around in a sexy red monochrome environment.
Visible behind her video was a projection on the wall of Elise Rasmussen's black-and-white geometric chamber. A solo performer danced inside it slowly, as if acting out constraint. The dancer's clothes match the walls, and bricks are arranged in a Mondrian-like grid on the floor; they make it hard to move smoothly.
Later I learn that Rasmussen's art is a response to a historical account by a Spanish anarchist who said he designed prison cells for torture by adapting the patterns and colors of modern art.
Each of the little worlds constructed in the videos at The Alice gestures to a bigger, badder one. Each is a sphere of shared intimacy and indistinct pain. There are speaking voices. One work is called Pillow Talk, by Constance DeJong. It is a pillow on a screen that talks to you when you get close and trigger it. When I was there, the artists and curator were preparing for a discussion in the gallery, so I didn't get to hear what the pillow had to say.
The exhibition is called I Wasn't Just Saying What You Wanted to Hear. "I wasn't just saying what you wanted to hear when I said whatever I told you at that moment just to make us happy," is part of the pillow's talk.
On the far end of the gallery in the corner, there are headphones waiting next to cushions on the floor. This is Jaeeun Lee's video of oozing images of estrangement, Secret to You, in which a narrator wanders through a hand-drawn, animated world of groups of other people and animals while speaking about the experience as if it were a dream. She cannot fit in.
Something has happened to this narrator, or maybe is still happening, and it is causing a rearrangement of the particles on the screen as if they were a body being changed from within. The change is beautiful but it also feels wrenching.
And finally on the other end of the gallery, Ellie Krakow's Shine video plays on a monitor set up on a tripod. (We stand, we sit, we lean in at this exhibition; these videos are presented to our bodies as much as our eyes, rather than being presented on a row of monitors on the walls.)
On the screen we see a stage that's empty except for two film lights with their great umbrellas. A director in voiceover gives lighting technicians instructions. It's a love story, but it turns bad.
"One of the lovers uses a loud voice to list injustices. The other lover picks up objects and gestures violently with them. ... (FACE THE LIGHTS IN OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS)." The technicians move the lights. I imagine the bodies that are missing within these crude outlines. I notice I'm distracted by a noise. It's the sound of big data nearby. I start around the room again.