Whiteout

Stark, monochrome video pieces at Locks Gallery are edgy and pretty.

By Roberta Fallon
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 5 | Posted Jul. 13, 2010

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Horse Play: A ghostly shot from "The Fall," part of the video installation at Locks Gallery

If a horse rolls over in a forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound? Not in Nadia Hironaka and Matt Suib’s silent video “The Fall” (2010), a short black-and-white (the tones are inverted, so maybe white-and-black?) fantasy piece that’s part of the couple’s debut at blue-chip Locks Gallery.

The horse in question—a ghostly apparition that seems more unicorn—has its star turn in a bleak birch forest. The camera moves slowly forward through dense woods to reveal the animal, which rolls on its back, kicks at the air, then gracefully gets up and trots out of the picture. The camera reverses direction through the woods and, doubting your eyes, you begin another loop of the two-minute piece.

The mesmerizing video is an odd mix of old-school storytelling and up-to-the-minute video techniques. The HD video has so much digital dodge and burn that it evokes a world seen via X-ray, or through night-vision goggles. Yet the piece, projected large on the gallery wall, has old-fashioned pinhole-camera framing, and its content is right out of a fairy tale. Pining after beauty and purity in a damaged world is a well-loved theme in art, and Hironaka and Suib do it particularly well.

The other video in the show, the two-channel “Whiteout” (2010), is likewise full of night-vision visual edginess and fantasy tinged with unearthly beauty. An eight-minute stream of images runs the gamut from nature to bombed-out buildings, with the main role played by a Hazmat-suited person carrying a metal detector roaming sand dunes. A quiet but insistent soundtrack of music, noise, voice and static washes over the gallery like random sounds picked up from radio stations, movies and wartime walkie-talkies.

This is postapocalyptic storytelling, rooted in cinematic war stories and the artists’ own love of the earth. There’s great visual beauty here, but it’s awash in darkness and sorrow. A narrative of destruction and danger is suggested as the human figure tromps endlessly on. It’s humankind out of its element—David Bowie’s Man Who Fell to Earth or Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk—but stripped of optimism.

With the gallery lights off, as I saw it, the pieces have great drama in the cool, dark space. According to the gallery notes, the artists mean you to see the work with the lights on. Try it both ways—the gallery staff is amenable. The graphic punch of “Whiteout” would suffer with the lights on, but “The Fall” might gain additional mystery if seen white-on-white on the wall like a magic apparition.

A third nonvideo work, a cut-vinyl piece that repeats the sand-dune patterns seen in “Whiteout,” is a weak echo of the video. It might be more successful with a blacklight projection to give it some mystery or cinematic presence.

Hironaka and Suib are a husband-and-wife team who began collaborating in 2007 after separately achieving local and national renown for their solo works. They founded the just-shuttered Screening Video in 2007 and were both Vox Populi members. This is their first show at Locks Gallery.

Nadia Hironaka & Matt Suib: "Whiteout."
Through July 30.
Locks Gallery
600 Washington Square South
215.629.1000
locksgallery.com

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1. Michael Andre said... on Jul 15, 2010 at 05:01AM

“Hironaka and Suib remind me a little of Man Ray's Rayographs. There are three works in their show and title piece Whiteout is the least interesting; but it alludes to their technique. The camera moving slowly through the forest where the horse falls is at once real and dream-like. Critters in the third piece -- large ants and a tiny woman -- are in white silhouette; they grab the eye and perhaps the heart.”

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2. roberta said... on Jul 15, 2010 at 10:06AM

“Hi Michael, thanks for the comment! Rayographs is right -- they do feel like that. I love parts of Whiteout and I love the back and forth rhythm of The Fall--it's really like being on a slow moving train through the woods.”

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3. artblahg said... on Jul 16, 2010 at 07:27PM

“Disedclaimer for yous:

So Michael, you write for Roberta Fallon's blog, then you come here and comment like you don't know here, then she writes back like she doesn't know you because, neither of you reveal this fact, AND the same comment was already posted on her blahg. Small world eh?!

This WhiteWash show is nothing more than an attempt at star building. It will fail. HAHAHAhahahahahah!

lovvvvvvvvvvvvvveeeeeeeeee ya!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

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4. So what? said... on Jul 18, 2010 at 06:04AM

“@artblahg

Seriously. Are you five years old?”

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5. Anonymous said... on Sep 26, 2011 at 10:28PM

“Hello,

We are a group of Philadelphia artists letting you know about Vincent Romaniello. Vincent Romaniello has been cyber harassing Philadelphia artists for over 2 years and often attacks artists he's worked with in the past. Vince writes a racist and misogynistic “blog,” artblahg. Most of what Vincent writes is opinion, but some is cyber harassment. He has implicitly threatened sexual assault and physical stalking. He has also written libelous statements. Harassment is a crime, including cyber harassment.

www.vincentromaniello.com/

There's ample proof "artblahg" and "Vincent Romaniello" write from the same IP address.”

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