Guy Ben-Ner’s filmic version of “Moby Dick” is one in which a kitchen sink serves as the Pequod, Queequeg’s full-body tattoos are evoked with plastic clothespins, Ahab brooding alone in his cabin is a close-up of a closed kitchen drawer and a pint-sized little girl running through the kitchen is the ferocious White Whale that severs the leg of the monomaniac captain. Ben-Ner’s DIY films may evoke the “Sweded” movies of Michel Gondry’s “Be Kind Rewind,” but they go beyond the pratfalls to explore interesting emotional territory. “Wild Child,” for instance, is not only a retelling of Truffaut’s film of the at-risk boy of Aveyron, but is also a meditation of what it means to “civilize” his own son Amir. All of the works in this show use adaptation-as-strategy, retelling old stories and repurposing them to new ends. Catherine Sullivan’s “Triangle of Need” starts from Nigerian scam emails and ends up a complex and florid composition. Arturo Herrera’s piece repurposes fragments of his earlier work in a projected collage electronically keyed to the changes of pitch in Stravinsky’s “Les noces.” Eve Sussman and the Rufus Corporation’s operatic unraveling of J.-L. David’s “Les Sabines” is basically a feature film of almost ninety minutes, grandiose and bombastic, but utterly arresting as a study of sexual violence and nationhood. From Ben-Ner’s witty economy to Sussman’s cinematic excess, these pieces take time to absorb, but they repay close attention. (David Mark Wise)
Through May 4 at the Smart Museum of Art, 5550 S. Greenwood.