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Robert Arndt.

Tracey Lawrence Gallery, Vancouver CANADA March 9--April 14, 2007

Cinematic space is, for Robert Arndt, a primary tool of cultural analysis, allowing him to alter, edit, and otherwise move elements around to trace the mental processes fomented, taken up, or perhaps obstructed by trauma or altered, hypnotic states. In Arndt's current exhibition at Tracey Lawrence, "History Will Absolve Me," a large light jet print shows a male figure fleeing or jogging almost out of frame. A reworking of arte povera pioneer Giovanni Anselmo's automatic photograph Entrare nell'opera (Entering the Work, 1971), the dreamlike quality of Exiting Picture Left (all work 2006) betrays not only the same interest in shifts or disambiguations of consciousness, but also looks forward to exponents of the Dusseldorf School, students of Bernd Becher like Andreas Gursky, and Thomas Struth, Candida Hofer, and others--among whose ranks Arndt could easily be counted.

Infused with absurdist contretemps in the mold of Beckett and Pinter, though with a critically aware, Brechtian twist, pure nonsense seems the principal act here, yet without at the same time shutting down or opening some pretty big doors. In the single-channel HD video, Telegraph, a Vancouver Everyman is seen walking through one of the city's urban-edge forests, improbably intercut with aerial views of New York City streets (lots of yellow cabs) and the actor's fragmented interior monologue ("Green, green is a great color, green-brown, but I'm wearing blue," "directions in here somewhere?"). The shifting POV of the camera seems to oscillate between first and third person, disorienting the narrative further, eroding the subjective framework and authenticity of the actions being filmed.

Recover! is an inkjet print on GatorBoard displaying a collection of modernist cover designs. Included among its abstract and mesmerizing shapes is a graphic made up of wavy black lines, whose see-sawing optical swirl was once used in cognitive tests to gauge memory retention--but also famously misremembered or "forgotten." With this memory test program or re-appropriation chart, Arndt seems to recast Pop strategies, conjuring popular memory as actively occupied by--and burdened with--repressed historical moments, images, and information.

Arndt consistently employs actor Steve Zilliax in his projects as a loose representation of himself, setting up expectations and ongoing foibles to exploit and expand upon. In the HD video Scene One we see a young man in his living room obsessively cleaning a Mamiya single-lens reflex camera, all filmed in constant and almost imperceptible movement, both edging toward him and then back out again. Focused solely on his tasks with the camera, the actor doesn't engage in any way with his surroundings until the very end of the video, whereupon he turns and looks at the window blinds behind him, seeming to glimpse some kind of repressed image or thought, before laying back down exhausted on the couch. Scene One is a cryptic essay on perception, clarity, and the futility of finding one's way through the intellectual mazes, distractions, blind spots, and fugitive misconceptions that altogether constitute human awareness.
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Title Annotation:art exhibition
Author:Pence, Elizabeth
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:May 1, 2007
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