Straight-Faced Art

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Opening this weekend at San Francisco art space, The Lab, is the third and final installment of an international exhibition informed by a comedy genre known as "deadpan." Named "Deadpan Exchange", the project refers to communicative moments in which a statement is delivered with a straight face and the listener must determine whether it is funny or tragic. It is a model which gives the audience power to react and move in their own direction, and in this case it serves as a nice simile for the form of collaboration among the participants. The first two installments of the show were in Berlin and Copenhagen, and in each iteration a group of artists brought their work abroad, made their "statements" and then a subsequent group responded in the next show. Pieces have included a PowerPoint video by co-organizer Jonn Herschend, entitled, The Exact Chain of Events; Kara Hearn's video, 7 reincarnations, in which the artist "re-shot scenes from 7 Hollywood films in her apartment;" and video and installation projects by several artists that question the fidelity of language in storytelling and translation. This final chapter includes work by the Danish Koh-i-noor collective and the show opens with audio/visual performances by Joe McKay, Matthew Hughes Boyko, and the aggressive mimes of Team Lexington. "Deadpan Exchange" is intended to "begin a dialog that might not otherwise take place outside of formal institutions," and like all deadpans, it requires audience participation. - Marisa Olson

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Reflections on the Future

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Footprints Into the Future, a group exhibition running through February 25th at Venice's Palazzo delle Arti Napoli, poses an interesting question. Curated by PAN's Julia Draganovic and Tseng Fangling of the Kaohsiung Fine Arts Museum-Taiwan, the show assumes that an artist's desire is to innovate, or to find a singularly unique form of expression. The challenge addressed is that of developing "a form of creative innovation that takes into account the cultural heritage, tradition, and all that contributes to the making up of a people's identity." In other words, how can one reflect and acknowledge the past, while focusing on treading into the future? This is, ultimately, a media change question: One must understand the forms of expression that have come before in order to adapt to new ones. Appropriately, the show is the third in PAN's exhibition cycle devoted to the theme of "Challenges" and, for this installment, the curators have selected twelve Taiwanese artists. The group draws on the aesthetics and rituals of their primarily Buddhist and Taoist culture in order to create "a fully contemporary language." Among the included projects are interactive installations by Hsiao Sheng-chien and Lu Mu-jen, and mangas drawn by Hung Tunglu and positioned in lightboxes among traditional spiritual symbols. Lin Shu-min's "Inner Force" is a playful meditation on the concept of "mindfulness." Two viewers face each other and see lotus-shaped projections of their monitored brain waves on the floor. The viewer who is most relaxed yields the most flowers. Projects like these distinguish the question of respectful innovation from classically unanswerable Buddhist "koans." They make clear that artists, of all people, are capable of finding beautiful new ways of inviting history to repeat itself. - Marisa Olson



Image: Hung Tunglu, Padmasambhava, 2002

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