In its last week at Boots Contemporary Arts Space in St.Louis is the exhibition The 7th Annual Midwestern Assorted Produce Snuff Shorts Film Triennial. The group show consists of video and performance works by the artists Benjamin Bellas, Clinton King, Noelle Mason, Magdalen Wong, Justin Cooper and Ross Moreno, whom often collaborate under the curatorial moniker “i.e.”
The videos on display range from Noelle Mason’s large projection Bob and Weave, that features the artist slap-boxing a much larger male opponent that leaves her bloodied by bouts end, to Magdalen Wong’s and they lived well but we live better which documents the artist entering the translated phrase into the keypad of an ATM during a transaction in Greece.
At the opening there were two performances by artists Justin Cooper and Ross Moreno. Moreno started the evening off with a bang; dressed in a rainbow clown wig, suspenders and a Speedo, he attempted to break the Guinness World Record for the “Most Balloon Animals Twisted in One Hour.” It became clear during the performance that Moreno was not prepared to accomplish his goal. He struggled to twist balloons into dogs, flowers and other unrecognizable forms. Balloons exploded and deflated flying across the gallery as a timer counted down the hour. At one point he gave up and stormed out, only to be coaxed back by a supportive audience. The tension and frustration built till finally Moreno completely defeated and extremely agitated unleashed his anger toward the spectators. “I twist for tips”, he yelled which made some members of the audience question whether they were supposed to actually tip him money for the performance.
In the second performance, Justin Cooper came out to a wild round of applause generated in part by a recording coming from speakers and by people in the crowd. Just as the host of a late night talk show or comedy club would give thanks and appreciations, Cooper encouraged the show of hands. This went on for five or six minutes till it became apparent that Cooper was becoming frustrated and annoyed that he was unable to proceed. As the crowd began to catch on and more people started clapping, Cooper became irate, screaming at the crowd to stop, begging them to please shut up, which only caused more applause. This felt like it could go on all night and certainly could have, till Cooper finally broke character, laughed and thanked the people in the gallery.
In perhaps the same spirit but to different effect, and making clear these artists’ approach to performance and video clear, is Clinton King’s untitled video of the artist performing magic tricks in front of a high-definition monitor that is simultaneously displaying a live feed of the action. The effect is that of endless distorted feedback loop that deconstructs representational imagery into pure abstraction. Through the editing process, the artist has left intact all of the movements of his hands preceding and following the illusions, but has removed the tricks themselves.
Having formed the i.e. project in 2004, the 6 artists involved maintain uneasy and provocative relationships, collaborative and otherwise, via regular exhibitions nationally and internationally. Complicating matters is that the artists hail from locales as varied as New York, Tampa Bay, Chicago, and Hong Kong. Previous exhibitions have been realized at Alogon Gallery, Chicago and 1a space, Hong Kong among others.