Nine artists explore the notion of obsession with various video art installations at Golden Thread Gallery
'LOVE, OBSESS, TRANSFORM, MUTATE, DESTROY.'
Emblazoned on the wall of Belfast’s Golden Thread Gallery, this staccato missive not only encompasses the underlying themes behind latest exhibition Psychic Driving, but also serves to prime the viewer for an intense experience, inviting them to engage right from the off with this hi-octane collaboration.
Psychic Driving makes no bones about its intent, being heavily rooted in cinema. Visitors immediately find themselves in a large, darkened room. A table to their left supports a CRT television, VHS player and, most noticeably. a video tape. Bathed in the glow of a solitary lamp, the tape is protected by a display case. Subtlety be dammed; the message is clear. Here, VHS is god.
The influence of David Cronenberg’s 1993 Betamax body-horror classic Videodrome is, of course, monumental, especially in Nicolas Provost’s movie mash-up Long Live The New Flesh. Provost’s piece blends scenes from Videodrome with another Cronenberg classic, The Fly.
Eagle-eyed horror fans will also spot gory excerpts from Alien and The Thing in Provost's movie medley, datamoshed together. As always, this lends a painterly quality to proceedings, with faces and viscera blurring together in a sea of digital remnants.
Not only does this fusion of sounds and images hypnotically draw the viewer into the installation in a figurative sense, but thoughtful gallery layout allows onlookers to wander right up the screen. The sense of involvement with the piece becomes tangible.
Hidden behind velvet curtains, the next work is by Kandy Fong, a founding member of the United Federation of Phoenix, the longest-running Star Trek fan club in the world. An original slideshow from 1980, Kong's piece, entitled 'Both Sides Now', is an early forerunner to fan-made music videos.
Featuring both production stills and behind-the-scenes snaps from Star Trek (presented in vivid lomographic colours), Fong's work was endorsed by Star Trek creator Gene Roddenbury, and became a way for Trek fans to interact with the original series after its 1969 cancellation.
Its existence ties in with the exhibition's themes of obsession and control, but moreover showcases Fong's skill at creating meaning through montage – the very essence of cinema. Soundtracked by Leonard Nimoy's tender baritone cover of 'Both Sides Now' by Joni Mitchell, this piece provides soothing soft-focus counterpoint to Provost's work.
Cinema and video may provide the backbone of the exhibition but there is plenty more on display besides from the nine contributing artists. Perhaps most unusually for a gallery setting is Nancy Jo Sales' essay 'The Suspects Wore Louboutins'. Presented on a series of typed pages (and one Polaroid photograph), this true story was the inspiration behind Sofia Coppola's recent film, The Bling Ring.
An in-depth report on how a group of Calabasas teenagers came to steal millions of dollars' worth of clothing and artwork from celebrity's homes – after finding their houses on Google Maps and monitoring their whereabouts via Facebook and Twitter – this is a worrying but fascinating demonstration of obsession drawn to its logical conclusion. As fate would have it, after their well-publicised trials, the teens became celebrities themselves.
There are many more installations on show. Some are equally immersive, such as Kristin Lucas' 'Lo-Fi Green Sigh', a humorous retro-futurist short film that riffs on the toilet-roll-tubes-and-tin-foil sets featured in 1960s sci-fi B Movies. Jeanne Suspugla's 'The Bath', however, leaves me particularly cold. A video-taped performance piece showing a woman writhing in a bath of medicine capsules, it doesn't compare to some of the other work on show.
Nonetheless, Psychic Driving as a whole makes for an incredibly engaging experience, at once horrific and humorous. What's more, it manages to hold a mirror up to the modern human condition, asking a disturbing but pertinent question: when does fascination become obsession, and at what point do we become consumed by it?
Psychic Driving runs in the Golden Thread Gallery, Belfast until October 5.