Smoke and mirrors (and elephants) at the ICA

'Momentum 13: Eileen Quinlan' and 'Acting Out: Social Experiments in video' coming to the ICA
By EVAN J. GARZA  |  March 3, 2009

Javier Téllez, Letter on the Blind, for the Use of Those Who See (video still, 2007)

Not into wheatpasting and framed posters? The ICA is about to serve up two shows by artists who promise not to pop up on street walls all over the city. Opening Wednesday March 18, "MOMENTUM 13: EILEEN QUINLAN" offers 26 photo abstractions in the Boston-born artist's first solo museum show. Using pre-digital photographic techniques — like strobes, smoke, and mirrors — Quinlan creates geometric images composed of prismatic (and almost painterly) blocks of color, texture, and light. Influenced by the scale and lighting of advertising campaigns, her pieces are "direct representations of the items used to create backdrops in commercial photography," according to ICA associate curator Jen Mergel. Her newest body of work, Fracas, features abstractions of slat board, the wall-mounted retail display fixture from which merchandise is hung. A lunchtime talk with both Quinlan and Mergel will take place at the museum on March 19.

The concept of performative elements in video isn't new, but the ways in which those performances make their way to the screen are ever-changing. Also opening at the ICA on March 18, "ACTING OUT: SOCIAL EXPERIMENTS IN VIDEO" presents a group of artists concerned with structures of social relationships — Javier Téllez, Artur Zmijewski, Yael Bartana, Johanna Billing, and Phil Collins (no, not the former member of Genesis). Their work explores ideas of rules, challenges, or competition where participants react in genuine (and often moving) ways. Javier Téllez's Letter on the Blind, for the Use of Those Who See (2007), which premiered at the 2008 Whitney Biennial, is addresses itself to the physically disabled. The artist filmed six blind people and their respective physical reactions as they touched different parts of a live elephant. Re-creating the Indian parable "The Blind Men and the Elephant," Téllez makes new the lesson that every individual experiences the same thing in a unique way. Collins, whose previous video has featured fans of the band the Smiths singing karaoke across the globe, presents among his pieces at the ICA he who laughs last laughs longest, which documents the hilarity of a televised competition (to see who can laugh the longest) set in the Scottish town of Helensburgh, where television (or at least its inventor) was born.

"MOMENTUM 13: EILEEN QUINLAN" at Institute of Contemporary Art, 100 Northern Ave, Boston | March 18–July 12 | 617.478.3100 | "ACTING OUT: SOCIAL EXPERIMENTS IN VIDEO" at Institute of Contemporary Art | March 18–October 18

Related: Video vérité, Game show, Topographic musings, More more >
  Topics: Museum And Gallery , Mammals, Johanna Billing, Javier Tellez,  More more >
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