DE_CONSTRUCTIV GARDEN TALES Recent Video Works by Kaz Rahman
OCTOBER 10-31, 2022. A+A GALLERY 103. University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
These recent video works showcase a collage of elements that combine hand-drawn and animated gestures with live action and archival. An architectural framework wraps these 5 garden tales which include a dreamy journey through sun-soaked streets, face masks, borders and the 1918 Influenza Pandemic (A Short History of Face Masks), voyage/shadows, waterscape/sea creatures, cloudscape/birds (Lampedusa), an abstract landscape through chaos and serenity (Digital Dervish + Flamenco Sonic) and tributes to the formal possibilities and joys of early experimental cinema (Grand Theatre and Picture Palace: A Carnivalesque Homage to Hans Richter and Bees Mechanique: A Pollenizing Homage to Fernand Leger).
Walking into the glow of Kaz Rahman’s De_Constructiv Garden Tales gave an instantaneous diaristic and familial warmth. The show is located behind an architectural glass wall in the building, so it is first experienced in view, but out of reach, through the glass without the audio component. Upon passing this membrane the five 55” screens hum with a low, rich, and somehow sparsely dynamic decibel and tone – utterly welcoming and accommodating… an unlikely Zen. The sonic environment of the work contains 5 separate channels, one from each screen, that somehow work in unison to deeply calm, against all logic (an interesting feat, considering I have low grade misophonia and should have been repelled by this collision). While standing in front of each screen it’s specific audio becomes clean and clear, and the other channels fade. This encounter with the sound seems to be the portal, or a courting gesture toward the visual, which from afar, through the glass, moved in tandem to an uncanny serenity – even when mildly frenetic. I met the artist’s charming young son as I came through the door, who’s face I saw behind him and filling one of the screens, haloing the actual face looking up at me. The directness of this positioning and encounter was disarming and very beautiful- an entry point into the work steeped in a kind of quiet confidence and grounded inclusion.
A symmetry emerges alongside a primary realization that the installation is as much a sculpture as a video work. Of the 5 screens the 3 central to the overall piece are framed by all black plastic while the outer two monitors have a silver band along the bottom. All 5 screens are arranged horizontally like paintings hung at 60” on center, lined up touching on adjacent edges. One power wire, respectively, moves vertically in a straight clean line from behind each screen. The combination of screens sits at the center of the wall – forcing a sort of double symmetry. The central screen displays an organic form of an orb or sphere as if signifying the scientific mid-point (the third symmetry of the piece) – the central circular coordinate of the space. A recycling black hole of space-time. I did not get the sense that all this balance was considered as some core interest for the presentation or the work itself, but nevertheless it assisted in holding me transfixed in its cradle.
The truth is – without hyperbole – the screen has become the greatest enemy in my daily life. I can’t help but reckon with my perception of pixel and light and “content” being a kind of physical and psychological attack on my wellbeing. A place to distract, numb, tire, force-feed and induce acute and long-term anxiety. Of course, I’m talking primarily about our cell-phone screens, but still a potential formal concern with video-artworks. But these screens grounded me and made me feel a profound sense of love. The exact opposite effect of this phone-depression we all know. Love of the moment, and of my own family, painting, the landscape, collision, reflection – A big general love for a vast and fleeting life. The work made me breathe and relax. As ambitious as the ranging content and subject of the work may be, there was a patient humility. The work was elegantly not trying, not forcing, not pushing – it was loose and free. For this reason, I felt embraced by the screens and the space that contained them as a place to rest and restore. In thinking about my own family, I began to consider the sinister reality of death and grief, but in a loving way. There was a sensation of acceptance coming off the screens, acceptance of all that has come and is coming. Perhaps a notion of humbly celebrating nothing and everything, and even the beginnings of probing at the afterlife.
These notions are bolstered by what I would describe as the emotionality surrounding a melancholic bliss. Specifically, a European overcast sky overlayed with colorful bits of animated painted gestures. There’s some sad elation to these moving pictures of this place – perhaps a loss of memory, a loss of innocence, or the decadence of nostalgia. Perhaps the emotion attached to the changing of the seasons as a child – the brand new, original stimulus that only a child knows. Maybe because I’m from Boston, I felt the romance of grey skies. The pain of a biting cold balanced by the refuge of layers of warm clothing and a big jacket. There is a lot happening in this work. An infinite overlap of organic animated painted forms, archival moving images, layers of line and shape, flora and fauna dancing in the wind – color, texture, light and sound. My eyes danced and processed the information trying to find what now feel like non-existent or non-important connections. The realization that the connections were not required was a relief and propelled a sense of serenity and humility. There was no code to decipher, rather a sense of play and freedom. This allowed me to sit with individual screens and experience them with pointed attention. Each screen seeming to represent the passing of time or moving through time and space. The ineffable and abstract motion of time. Painted child-like birds flutter in slow broken choreography over water and the built world. Mundane scenes, elevated by animated intervention and by simply being acknowledged- the struggle of life, to stay focused and optimistic inside a brutal ecosystem.
-Alex Stern October 2022