Jack Strange’s Within Seconds Closes This Week

The video works that comprise Jack Strange’s Within Seconds, on view in the 1st Floor Gallery at Arthouse, deal in tongue-in-cheek humor.  Each video work presented toys with the constant bombardment of information as well as technological consumerism prevalent in both the United States and Strange’s native England.

Strange comments on our use of technology by manipulating the very instruments of it – televisions, Apple laptops, digital images and slide projectors.  Lecture on Life Inside a Human Cell (2010) features a white Apple laptop.  Its keyboard is topped with several rows of small, white ovoid clay pieces each with a painted face.  Some resemble eager students while others appear to glower at the screen.  The computerized images resemble cells forming endless networks of veins.  The shape of the “students” staring ahead at the “lecture” screen is interesting given that eggs are often used as tools for discussing basic cell structure in early biology classes.  The images on the screen are falsely organic as they were most likely created by the laptop that displays them.

Jack Strange, g, 2008, lead ball, 1 1/2 x 1 3/4 x 1 3/4 inches

I wrote to Rachel Adams, Curator of Public Programs, regarding Within Seconds.  There are actually three dedicated spaces to video works, but this is the first exhibition since reopening to future almost purely video works.  Rachel’s favorite piece in the show is Lecture on Life Inside a Human Cell.  “When Jack was here, he talked about how his laptop became his studio in a sense and I really appreciate that notion. The way in which artists work is constantly changing and he adapted to the fact that we are beings who are constantly on computers. He is commenting on that in this piece.”

Unlike the rendering of a natural bodily phenomenon in Lecture, The Epidemic Series, an ongoing series begun in 2007, is actually based in natural.  The digital slide images are projected fairly low to the ground so that they are best viewed in a crouch, having almost a phenomenological affect.  The images, at first, seem like ordinary scenes from nature – snow covered trees, leaf-strewn streams and wooden archways.  The slides slowly, and slyly, reveal themselves to be faces formed in nature.  The expressions found on each, be they formed by tree branches or plastic bags, range from grimace to grin much like the faces in Lecture.  Given that the piece is ongoing, it begs the question, did Strange truly find all of these images naturally?  Or have they been manipulated much like the images daily displayed across the internet?

The running montage that is Tom (2007) without question speaks of the vast number of videos and images available with a few pecks at a keyboard or click of mouse.  Websites like YouTube and Vimeo allow anyone with a computer and video recording and/or editing capabilities to post something online.  My friend Don and I stood watching the twenty-two minute single-channel video and instantly began to guess which Tom Cruise film was being referenced.  As it turns out, there are a plethora of films that provide such footage (we listed no less than fifteen).


Jack Strange, Lecture on Life Inside the Human Cell, 2010

The second piece that references Hollywood and film is Biff, Griff and Mad Dog (2009).  Three televisions each atop a pedestal form a half circle; each is equipped with headphones.  The three monitors feature images from all three Back to the Future films.  The antagonist in each film – Biff, Griff and Mad Dog – is played by Thomas F. Wilson.  The audio visual combination is jarring.  Images are overlapped and frozen while the sound heard through the headsets is reminiscent of the static of defunct television channels.  Like Tom, the character(s) of this trilogy does not have a final destination; instead he remains motionless menace on screen.

The most playful piece features the artist himself wearing a red all-purpose travel jacket with black shoulders.  The digital slide projector clicks to images of the artist with a different man, in various locales all wearing a similar jacket to Strange.  The work, entitled Stunt Doubles (2007), speaks to individuality, or lack thereof.  It toys with our ideals as consumers finding a unique product while at the same time driven by the ideal of keeping up with the Jones’.  Technology is shrinking the world and homogenizing it.

Jack Strange’s Within Seconds is on display at Arthouse at the Jones Center until July 10th,–catch the closing, if you missed the opening. In a few words, playful, yet provocative, aptly describes Within Seconds.


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