Smack Mellon presents Multiplex 2, the second edition of our group exhibition devoted to artists' video. Multiplex 2 traverses artists' responses to cinema and television through the medium of video, across a span of four decades. The works explore the ways in which narrative and image can seductively construct meaning. They assert complex takes on the role of the moving image in both controlling and facilitating expression.

Within the many-layered construct of the multiplex, each video retains its autonomy. Self-consciously addressing the one-way spectatorship inherent to cinema and television, the works isolate the issue of audience engagement as distinct from "participation." The result is a dynamic theater of artificial realities. 

Michael Bell-Smith's
 digital animation, Top of the World (2005), explores time, space, and movement through the appropriation of the visual architecture of video-gaming. Fusing old and new software, Bell-Smith creates a compelling landscape of ideas about design and conflict. The viewer experiences phantasmic shifts of scale and abrupt ninety-degree movements of perspective, while encountering pulsing flowcharts, suburban tracts, and rapidly floating clouds.

In Lynda Benglis' Female Sensibility (1973), two women are framed in a close-up so tight that the image is dominated by their lipstick pouts. They practice kisses and self-conscious poses on each other.  A radio plays in the background, broadcasting male chatter over the scene, and disrupting any romance in the overtly physical, if ultimately passionless, exchange.

Robert Beck's Song Poem (Trips Visits) (2001) experiments with the alchemy between incidental moments salvaged from second-hand VHS tapes, and a young rock band's ballad. The "song poem" references a commercial ploy in which poets were offered to have their words set to music for a fee, though here the transposing of material conjures an unspecific but affecting pathos.

VALIE EXPORT's Facing a Family was originally broadcast on Austrian Network Television in 1971. The work not only stages a closed-circuit situation in which a middle class family watches television while it is itself being watched, but it also mimics the transmission disruptions inherent in early television. Freeze frames and slips of synch sound violently underscore the viewer's lack of control or feedback in the television dynamic.

Sally Grizzell Larson's Incidental Melody (2004) initially sets a romantic mood with a few perfectly staged settings and a carefully selected soundtrack.  Then, the fantasy begins to unravel.  As mounting anxiety is represented by shots of a woman tugging nervously at her skirt, the film's mood devolves into a sinister ambiguity.

For Returning to Fuji (1984), Nan Hoover used humble materials and subtle lighting effects to create the illusion of an impressive landscape. The representation is fully realized through an accompanying soundtrack of howling wind. Fluidly manipulating light and shadow into sculptural form, Hoover creates an evocative tension between artifice and reality. 

In Shana Moulton's wryly humorous Whispering Pines series (2002-04), Cynthia, the silent, somewhat confused protagonist, played by Moulton, interacts with the everyday world in equally mundane and surreal ways. A portrait of anxiety set in a generic supermarket, Part 1 foregrounds the artist's ongoing concerns with the consumer's conflicted experience of both estrangement and involvement. Part 2 follows Cynthia's attempts to navigate the enigmatic and possibly magical properties of her home décor. In Part 3, Cynthia makes notes in her diary, allowing us a glimpse into her slightly askew inner life.

Takeshi Murata's Monster Movie (2005)pushes the boundaries of the digitally manipulated image almost to the point of abstraction. Murata employs an exacting frame-by-frame technique to turn an excerpt from a B-movie into a seething, fragmented field of color and form that decomposes and reconstitutes itself thirty times per second.

Anthony Ramos' astute deconstruction of television news, About Media (1977),focuses on the media coverage of President Jimmy Carter's 1977 declaration of amnesty for Vietnam War draft evaders. Ramos, who had served an eighteen-month prison sentence for draft evasion, was interviewed by New York news reporter Gabe Pressman. Using repetition and juxtaposition, he contrasts the unedited interview footage -- and patronizing comments of the news crew -- with Pressman's final televised news report.

RSG-BLACK-1 (2005)is a new cut of a Hollywood blockbuster portrayal of a 1993 U.S. raid in Somalia. In the RSG version, all the white characters have been programmatically edited out. The result is a 22-minute conceptual investigation of representation and ideology. A timely and chilling critique, the new narrative highlights the entertainment industry's images of those it sees as "other."

Bruce and Norman Yonemoto's Made in Hollywood (1990) investigates film and TV's mediation of reality and fantasy, desire and identity. Quoting from a catalogue of popular styles and sources, from commercials to The Wizard of Oz, the Yonemotos construct a strikingly involving parable of the Hollywood image-making industry. With deadpan humor and heightened visual stylization, they layer artifice upon artifice, constructing a powerful narrative, where reality and representation, truth and simulation, collide.

Julie Zando's The Apparent Trap (1999) takes up the popular 1960's movie "The Parent Trap,"turning Hollywood images against themselves to investigate submerged issues of sexuality and subjectivity.  Mixing scenes from the original film with Zando's own restagings, and framed by a narrative that rewrites Pryings, Vito Acconci's notorious take on gender dynamics, Zando mounts a multi-layered, open-ended investigation into the ways in which sight, legibility and recognition are ideologically determined.