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Robert Boyd at Participant

By james

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Robert Boyd Xanadu [two stills from a three-screen video installation, and below those, a still from a second, single-channel video]


Robert Boyd has been working on his three-part epic video, "Xanadu", for years. We've seen two sections in earlier installations and they are literally, figuratively and emotionally dazzling. The completed work is now handsomely installed at Participant, in the gallery's main space. A second, related work is projected onto the floor of the lower level.

The larger piece uses thousands of image bites which the press release tells us were "culled from hundreds of hours of archival footage including that of Doomsday cults, iconic political figures, and global fundamentalist movements [to construct a] series of MTV-style music videos within a setting reminiscent of a discotheque".

The installation upstairs suggests a dizzy post-modern Cinerama, but without the 1950's optimism. Actually, in the rhythmic way the visual images are woven or composed Boyd's work more closely resembles a highly-kinetic wartime symphony, or maybe an insane tone poem, than any cinema form, conventional or otherwise. The disco sound track adds an oddly sophisticated counterpoint to the doomsday visual line, but you still won't walk out singing.

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