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Bay Area Now 4: Triennial regional survey of contemporary art

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The Death Star  by Michelle        Lopez

Untitled by Tommy        Becker

7:30 am by Jason         Roberts Dobrin

The Wall (detail of a wall painting at Rx Gallery) by        Gestalt Collective

The Wall (detail of a wall painting at Rx Gallery) by        Gestalt Collective
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts,
Jul 16, 2005 - Nov 06, 2005
San Francisco, CA, USA

Are we done yet?
by Marí­a del Carmen Carrión

Chris Ballantyne abysmal landscapes appear as a post-Prozac form of earthworks. His paintings and objects function as residues of visits to psychological sites. Commenting on America’s relation to landscape, and the use and reshaping of land through suburban architecture, the work of Ballentyne constructs a poetic of the prefab and the fake. The chose of colors and the replicas of materials resemble the forged shaping of the land, where green lawns pop up in deserted areas like mini-oasis, creating a fake sense of perfection and security.

On the video selection curated by Joel Shepard the videos by Sam Green and Caveh Zahedi make some of the most interesting works of the triennial. Both commissioned by YBCA the works of these two filmmakers present a refreshing approach to the documentary format.

Sam Greene’s lot 63, grave c revisits the story of Meredith Hunter, an 18 years old African American murdered by one of the members of the Hells Angels in the infamous Rollling Stones’ concert, which took place at Altamont Speedway. "Altamont Murder on Film" reads one of the headlines of a 1969 newspaper that Greene brings back through his methodical research. The concert and the killing were filmed by Albert and David Maysles and presented in the documentary Gimme Shelter. Green’s video touches upon the relation between film and memory. Infused with a journalistic and poetic approach his work points to the moment of loss of innocence of the American culture. The work folds over presenting a double lost. The perversive drive of forgetting the moment where America woke up from its utopian 60’s dream -the place where you wake up almost 40 years afterwards- and the lack of a marker. Greene’s revisits America’s cultural trauma, by paying a visit to an anti-monument, a place un-marked, a grave without a headstone. Without a mark, without an inscription there is no way of retrieving from memory. His film settles things down. It creates a sign, a conduit for us to revisit the past.

In The Film Within The Film Caveh Zahedi transports his personal obsession of documenting himself into the bigger spectrum of the documentary as a format. The work evidences the process of documentary self-reflexivity both in a critical approach to the format and in Zahedi’s own practice as a filmmaker. The viewer faces the work with the same fascination and disconcert that one has in watching a behind the scene of a magician show, where the pleasure of understanding how the tricks were made is both gratifying and disappointing. Witness of the unraveling of a fractal structure, the viewer confronts the repetitive, almost obsessive filming, acting and critiquing of a group of collaborators camera in hand. The actors/crew’s comments bounce back into Zahedi’s reflection on his film. His self-criticism appears egotistic and constructed, just as constructed as the over rehearsed plot that is being documented.

There are some great works to see at the show, as long one look closely at individual examples and avoid the curatorial labeling. The marketing department of YBCA definitely scored by incorporating as the show image a little tag –that reads Bay Area Now 4- design by one of the artist. That says it all.

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