The utterance takes the forefront in the sounds and images of Charles Mahafee. His exhibition at the artist-run space Julius Caesar speaks volumes in just three small pieces that compete for attention but nonetheless sound in unison. Among all the witticisms, I noticed a tinge of cynicism if not desperation in phrases such as, “I get a kick out of being depressed” and “I destroy everything that I love and will systematically destroy everything in my path,” from the video “Seven Sentences Starting with I.” Here the emphasis on first-person subjective complements the image of the lips that struggle to speak these words while spitting out a mouthful of screws. When considered with another piece in the exhibition—a spinning crotch in the video “Ridiculous”—there is something deeply psychological at work, not unlike a disturbing dream that fails to reveal its troubled meaning. I find no flaw in the familiarity of Mahafee’s scenarios due equally to the world of disturbed imagery and to the inner workings of the human mind. Most redeeming is the balance found in a piece such as “Pet Idiot” that asks for little interpretation and seems to just rejoice in the sounds the body makes outside of their concrete meaning. To quote Mahafee’s work, “Arguments are ridiculous and it is ridiculous of me to argue that arguments are ridiculous.” Somehow this strikes me again as a dead-end line of reasoning, but Mahafee never gives up. (Tim Ridlen)
Charles Mahafee shows at Julius Caesar, 3144 West Carroll Avenue, 2G, through December 28.