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You're On Somebody's Camera In Fascinating Three-Person Show

RAW KNEEL: A still from Rick Delaney's found home movie project

Their Eyes Are Watching You: Artwork Inspired By Surveillance

No matter from what direction you approach, a trip to Goucher College's Rosenberg Gallery places you on some surveillance monitor or another. Aggressive Driver Imaging might assess your motoring style, while helpful intersection cameras facilitate your left turns. Or stop at the bank for cash to get through the return toll booth--which also has a camera--and smile.

In an inescapable landscape of electronic surveillance through which we are kept safe from the vagaries of mishap and evil, Jackie Milad, Rosenberg Gallery's director/curator, came to organize Their Eyes Are Watching You. Three artists comprise the exhibition--clyde forth, Heather Boaz, and Rick Delaney--each with his or her own take on voyeurism via the camera lens.

Clyde forth is a dancer and performance artist who incorporates set design-cum-installation art as well as poetry in three discrete oeuvres. In "This Is the Place" a seemingly empty alcove of the gallery offers a video projected from the floor. On its screen occasional glimpses of feet step furtively between two contrasting surfaces. From a false wall beside the monitor peepholes extrude seductively. These spy-holes offer the dimmest view into the realm within, but an effort to make sense of forth's indistinct world beyond the looking glass is nearly futile. Take note of the poem scroll that hangs from an extended branch, exquisite in its own right--it is a Rosetta stone for the less than obvious goings-on.

Around the bend is another installation of illuminated photo boxes, "In(tro)spection Series 1-12," fetching little vignettes of body parts that make up these fragmented self-portraits. Forth uses the old-master mirror device of Eyck and Velázquez to reveal a larger, integrated reality occurring deeper in the reflected background.

In the nicely titled "Questionable Behavior," the most satisfying of forth's two video installations, she changes into something more uncomfortable as onlookers and plaza surveillance cameras casually glance on. An ordinary girl in jeans transforms through a process of efficiently modest peelings into a femme fatale in a very long tube of red silk. Reaching, slinking, retracting, attempting escape, lolling, furling, and uncoiling, her movements are luxuriant, panicky, and funny, part jazz club ingénue, part survivor in the wasteland, and part etymological magnetism. Her Flaming June character perplexes the security guards and embarrasses and captivates passers-by. A few pretend not to notice. Pixilated documentary stills of the proceedings, summarized from various cameras and angles, line the adjacent wall.

Conventional wisdom posits that gallery visitors average approximately three minutes in their consideration of any given work before moving to the next. That feels pretty short until Heather Boaz invites you to observe her various sitters estimating a whole entire minute. They do this any number of ways for her camera, snapping their fingers to count off seconds, enduring a carefully calibrated faucet drip, or just announcing a minute when they intuitively feel enough time has eked by. A minute becomes remarkably protracted when it receives full, undivided attention--even longer when your focus drifts. Of her series of videos, "Alyssa's Minute" touches brilliance. Boaz's finger-snapping segment is successfully absorbing as well. It's a great concept, but not being very OCD myself, I would have enjoyed a new twist to the message by the time one more time perception grid had cycled through.

Rick Delaney's anthology of grainy nostalgic scenes introduces the camera's first welcome invasion into our lives. From old home-movie footage, he has edited a montage of family milestones and memories for "Sweet Home." Into the pajama intimacy and minor affluences of Christmas morning, the tender weddings, and boisterous family get-togethers enters the benign, permanent public exposure of the moving picture. George Orwell would have mentioned his concerns about this storytelling appliance by then, but no one was taking it too seriously. In those halcyon midcentury days, a film was not data, watertight evidence, Exhibit A. It was just memory, a way to keep time from getting away altogether. Delaney has installed the large stills on the gallery walls to capture his visitors' attention, but the stills actually serve best as coming-attraction posters for the film he has secreted inside his installation's darkened carapace. Incarcerated in a metal tank and viewed through the surface of several inches of water, his sepia-colored projection video of once-happy times, "Pool," effectively becomes something of a chill, disturbing specimen. ★


Reprinted from The Baltimore City Paper