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The collision of violence and popular culture
Special to The Seattle Times
Anti-authoritarian icons collide in Chris Larson's "Pause," where a life-size re-creation of the Dodge Charger from the TV show "Dukes of Hazzard" crashes into Ted "Unabomber" Kaczynski's cabin. The car's side panel swoops in a characteristic curve and a carefully carved relief of stars authenticates the roof's Confederate-flag decoration.
Crafted of cheap lumber, its handmade quality seems almost childlike, its rough-hewn subversiveness fine-tuned by attention to detail. The crafted touch escalates the absurdity in this piece, emblems from entertainment and reality bound by a dashed wish for an alternative social order.
The piece challenges how we perceive a disturbing episode in recent history. And along with other pieces in the exhibit "Crash. Pause. Rewind," at Western Bridge, it demonstrates how violence and mortality stand at an uneasy tension nowadays with popular culture and media.
Visual arts review
"Crash. Pause. Rewind." Noon-6 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, through March 4, Western Bridge, 3412 Fourth Ave. S., Seattle (206-838-7444 or www.westernbridge.org).
On the wall, photos by Richard Barnes show Kaczynski's actual cabin. Reality contradicts our expectations, however, as we see a cabin not in the Montana woods but in a slick warehouse where it was reassembled by the Department of Justice. A companion photo of the site where the cabin used to be shows only a wire fence marking an inexplicable clearing.
Video-game environments, with their allure of interactivity, nevertheless hold back empathy with their artificial worlds. Jon Haddock questions the mentality of gaming and its propensity for violence, setting images from the Columbine massacre, Tiananmen Square and Vietnam among others in a video-game world. Rendered with all the plastic lighting and surfaces typical of the genre, the effect is unsettling. The scenes bring back memories of the people killed but also implicate trigger-happy aspects of our culture.
Christoph Draeger's film "Crash" sequences images of disasters culled from historical sources, movies, training videos and news accounts. Snippets from the Hindenburg crash, the movie "Airplane" and others run helter-skelter but provide moments of awe.
Other artists combine grimness with doses of the bittersweet. Timothy Hutching's film "The Arsenal at Danzig and Other Views" portrays the artist as an intrepid tourist wandering around buildings destroyed in World War II. Tacita Dean, in a set of photo-etchings called "The Russian Ending," draws on Russian audiences' apparent preference for movies with tragic endings. Using found images, Dean creates imagined unhappy final scenes, complete with annotations for a director such as "Pan down to coffin/dead."
Curated by Eric Fredericksen, this exhibit is the most cohesive of the recent shows at Western Bridge. A continuous unfolding occurs as fantasy and violence are visited again and again in different pieces. Coming in the wake of recent devastation from hurricanes and anxiety about the Iraq war, the exhibit gives lots of fodder for reflection.
Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company