Gary Emrich's Contact layers video on video for an abstract effect
One of the most important curatorial departments at the Denver Art Museum (100 West 14th Avenue Parkway, 720-865-5000, www.denverartmuseum.org) is Modern and Contemporary, headed by Gwen Chanzit; a major portion of the Hamilton Building's third and fourth levels are given over to it.
Though paintings and sculptures are the stock in trade of the department, the DAM also puts the spotlight on new media such as video, which has its own dedicated space, called the Fuse Box. That's where you'll find Gary Emrich: Contact, already midway through its run.
Emrich is a local pioneer in the video medium, and one of his pieces was the first of this type that the museum ever acquired. For Contact, Emrich has created an installation that comprises two separate projections. Up toward the ceiling is a round screen on which found images of the moon appear; beyond that is a wall-sized projection of flowers and bees that Emrich created himself. Both are set to a soundtrack of NASA communicating with astronauts. The show's title thus equates bees landing on the flowers with men landing on the moon. It's impossible to mention all of the free-associational connections in Contact that link the imagery and the narrative, but a significant one is Emrich's paying homage to his father, a local filmmaker, which plays on another definition of Contact.
Emrich used a tiny, hand-held surveillance camera to capture the bees alighting on the flowers. The camera produces crude, fuzzy images, a purported shortcoming that Emrich has exacerbated by holding the camera as far away from its receiver as he could, producing what look like scratches and glitches. Using computer editing programs, Emrich sometimes layers as many as nine separate videos on top of one another to produce the final images. This technological hocus-pocus results in a wildly colored pastiche of visuals that looks something like a moving abstract painting. The piece reminded me of an aquarium filled with colorful tropical fish.
Contact runs through April 8 at the DAM.
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