Works by Peter Sarkisian
A video installation at UCSD’s University Art Gallery
Review and commentary by David Lewinson
Dark, disquieting, surprising, and beautiful. This is Peter Sarkisian’s “Dusted,” a video installation at UCSD’s University Art Gallery.
Just entering the exhibition is unsettling, because it’s so very dark. More than just the usual moment or two is required to adjust to this darkness. But eventually, the shape of a large room begins to suggest itself, and it’s noticed that the faint illumination is radiating from images projected onto a large cube by several small projectors.
The imagery at first suggests an Underworld formed of abstract shapes moving about like barely molten lava. However, it’s soon recognized that these shapes are human beings trapped in a cage.
At the top, a figure breaks free; but only with one arm. Covered in grease, all this arm can do is probe the outer side of its confines, leaving streaks of umber-brown on the otherwise pristine white surface.
A room-filling, disembodied voice half-whispers a long list of names in an accompaniment to this troubling, visually beautiful form.
While this cube is the major work in the exhibition, six other video projection projects by Sarkisian are on view. These are smaller and narratively less complex but are nonetheless marvelous and surprising.
In a pair of these, the artist places shoes atop a small valise. From directly above, the projectors cast an illusory image of shadows moving across the shoes. These shadows, however, don’t suggest a light source directly above, but from somewhere very far away, like a pale setting sun. Though seemingly cold and minimalistic, the piece, in its way, is quite romantic.
Another pair of works consists of two small beds of a size appropriate for young children. The pillows on these provide the surface onto which Sarkisian projects his images; in this case, of something crab or spider-like slithering about under the pillow cover. The effect is decidedly creepy, and something of a cheap thrill compared to the richer, more subtly disturbing engagement offered by the artist’s other work.
Obviously, this is not the kind of video available on your cable system or from the local Blockbuster. This video, furthermore, is not contained within the confines of the television set, but is projected onto real objects in real space in real time. As a result, the work becomes more like sculpture, the images more like cinema, and the action more lively and present.
It’s really quite remarkable stuff, and a superb demonstration of the powers and capabilities of video.
Do see this show, which will be on view through December 12. But be careful when you first enter. It’s dark in there.
For gallery hours and other information: call the University Art Gallery at (619) 534-2107.
For availability of photos for reproduction, contact the University Art Gallery at the phone number above.