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SAD Response

At the SAD exhibit, I found many art pieces which were powerful in their own ways, including Charles Matson Lume's "The Still Time" and Lois Borzi's "I'll Call You." But the piece to which I reacted most was Andrea Stanislav's "Flashland" (2007). Her compelling use of combined video and sound design struck me in a way I may find hard to describe. Well, let's give it a shot, anyway.

I've always responded most to multimedia art pieces, and especially to films. The use in Stanislav's case of three video monitors and surround-sound was both unique and very cleverly edited. I can imagine the effort it must have taken to sync up all three screens and the soundtrack.

Of course, it's content I'm more interested in. The installation was filled with images which have haunted me since childhood. The owl, nature's silent and monolithic judge, has always intimidated some part of my soul. This is probably at least partially due to the fact that I saw "The Adventures of Milo and Otis" several dozen times as a youngster. Its reoccurring role in the film and its appearance on all three screens emphasizes its importance to Stanislav's own personal view of darkness. The glassy stare from the jet-black eyes and the decidedly contrasted grays of the feathers create a feeling of bleakness and childish fear. We feel alone, isolated from both the video and the world outside the small box we sit in as participants in this piece.

Undulating mounds of fur form mysterious, fantastic creatures of the imagination. Heaving and rolling, it unmistakably evokes the womb, the place of maternal security and warmth. But at the same time, it is alien, ambiguous of form or identity. And so we are ambivalently drawn to it, both fascinated and put off by its unsure origin. At one point in the film, we are surrounded by the fur, enclosed in its blanket of softness and mammalian familiarity, but at the same time maintaining a small sense of panic at this engulfing force which we are still not able to evaluate as a whole.

Waves of deep, dark water sail in lazily from the infinite horizons of Lake Superior. The image is hazy on purpose, replicating almost exactly the way my memory pictures the view of this vast body of water. At times the water is seen from an upside-down angle, maybe to show us how, from the intangible point of view of the observer, the water and the sky are interchangeable. That is to say, we cannot reach out and tell the difference between one or the other. And so we feel once again alienated from the piece. The wooden structure, comparably tiny in the surf of the great inland sea reminds us of our sheer aloneness, both as self-aware beings and as artificial beings in a world of primal nature.

And of course, the music which Stanislav has selected for this work is of great importance. Usually of simple composition, it nonetheless produces an air of malevolence about the whole experience. At times, it startles the listener by approaching from the rear speakers. Dark, but organic-sounding, the music and sounds we hear are almost natural.

And it all plays in a loop. There's no clear beginning and no clear end, much like a state of mind or a dream, both of which I felt may have been projected in "Flashland." Stanislav's piece is beautiful because one may watch it as many times as he or she pleases. Much like a daydream, the length of the experience is determined by the observer. Sort of a stream-of-consciousness work of art.