Rising video star Eddo Stern's double castles target America's army culture.
INSTALLATIONS SHOW HOW VIOLENCE AMUSES
EDDO STERN at the Art Gallery of Ontario (317 Dundas West), to August
29. $12, stu/srs $9; Wed after 6 pm free. 416-979-6660. Rating: NNNN
Watching the L.A.-based Israeli artist Eddo Stern observe
Deathstar, his latest video, at the opening of his AGO show last week,
I see a slow smile spread across his face. I'm laughing in disbelief at
what's on the screen. The video is a series of clips Stern has taken
from ultra-violent online video games by random programmers depicting
the gory death of Osama bin Laden. He's set it to the score of The
Passion Of The Christ. The sick clips from the various animated games
feature bin Laden's disfigurement by a variety of means from punching
and stabbing (even fisting) to electrocution and sniper fire.
This is a document of a particularly juvenile response to 9/11.
However, the music subverts the programmers' intent, insisting we view
bin Laden as a Christ-like figure amidst all the maiming. I laugh when
I imagine the reaction of someone too conservative to appreciate the
subtle critique under the overt debauchery. Don't miss the other two
Part of the AGO's Present Tense Contemporary Projects series, the
show also includes three video installation/sculptures that incorporate
mechanical movement set to computerized music. The most fascinating
piece, Fort Paladin, takes the shape of a castle housing two computers.
One runs America's Army, a computer game produced by the U.S. Armed
Forces to entice young people to sign up. The second computer actually
plays the game by operating a series of robotic pistons that punch the
buttons on a keyboard controlling the movement of the soldier onscreen.
Rather than criticizing the graphic nature of video game violence,
Stern merely presents the bloodshed and lets it attest to our
acceptance of violence as entertainment. His work invites further
discussion, and while there are moments when the noise in the show
reminds me of being lost in a Chuck E. Cheese, the overall effect is
NOW | JUN 24 - 30, 2004 | VOL. 23 NO. 43