In “Havoc and Tumbled,” collaborators Kera MacKenzie and Andrew Mausert-Mooney packed Roman Susan’s little room with TVs and plants. Each monitor is different, ranging from 1970s-style sets to slick, hi-def screens. While each video has its own content, bits of scenes and clips bleed into other TVs, establishing them as parts of the same filmic project. Each screen is different, so things shift in quality, creating a fluctuation in visual textures in this glimpse of wildlife in this Rogers Park gallery.
The artists shot each piece, even when footage seems resolutely stock: a technician at a packed stadium, a controlled forest burn, graphic squirrel-butchering. The plants lining the storefront walls come from their porch, which we see in clips potted in the same black fabric. The show is as much about people in their lives—landlord, stepmother, student—than it is about a combination of wildlife, porches, outdoor activities and quick paintings of David Letterman. The familiar host is at turns benevolent and threatening against a cityscape, humorously suggesting that Letterman has joined the intimate plants and family on the artists’ porch as another friend among flora.
One video documents the artists’ performance last May at Links Hall, part of the venue’s partnership with the nonprofit Acre, where their residency seeded this show. A performer canoes through wetlands, at turns pensive and frantic. Fortuitously, this video faces one the artists made on vacation, a brief recording of other tourists taking peeping-Tom peeks from Spanish battlements. Between the two videos, an interview details the phenomenology of the countdown: 3, 2, 1.
Tumbling through cacophony, what do we have left? Digital video will outlive us, while celluloid and plants slowly rot. At Roman Susan, we still have the familial vectors we let into our lives. Their intimacy is called to in the numerous reflexive pans of camerapeople and technicians, the ones who do all the fraternal compiling of people into a cozy whole. “Havoc and Tumbled” reads and records like friends on a porch. Amidst the havoc, we still have our family, our plants, and the gallery. (Paul Smith)
Through July 25 at Roman Susan, 1224 West Loyola.
Elliot J. Reichert is a Chicago-based curator, critic, and editor. He is a currently Curator of Contemporary Art at the Eskenazi Museum of Art, Indiana Unversity, and Hatch Projects Curatorial Resident at the Chicago Artist Coalition. Formerly, he was Art Editor of Newcity and Assistant Curator at the Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University. His writing has been published in The Brooklyn Rail, the Journal of Visual Culture, and Newcity.