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Bat guano, or shit, is a useful thing. Nikki Phipps, author of The Bulb-olicious Garden, says it provides a “high concentration of nutrients” (“not only will your plants love it, but your soil will too”). Artist David Snyder thinks bat guano could be a lifeline for the American economy and, by association, the American dream. Or so he tongue-in-cheek proposes in the video that anchors 2THDNL, his third show at Michael Benevento-Los Angeles.
Snyder’s video, The Guano, projected on its own in a room adjacent to a looping video in which many different mouths repeat Reagan’s name, has the mix of earnestness and satire that characterizes Snyder’s most infatuating work. The factual tone, helpful graphics, and playful imagery, make the premise seem quite simple and attainable: Blockbuster Video used to be a thriving business, good for our capitalist nation’s bottom line. Now, over 1,700 Blockbuster stores sit empty.
Convert these vacant stores into bat guano generators, the video proposes, and make $6 billion in profit. Snyder spells out the logistical requirements: how to rehab the stores, how to attract and feed the bats, how the U.S. can “dominate the global bat shit industry.” These calculations go by so swiftly and smoothly that you don’t really question them. Near the end, as Paul Ryan appears onscreen with Batman tattoos on his biceps, Snyder asks, “As a nation, can we afford not to go bat shit?”
The bulk of Snyder’s exhibition is a sculptural installation of musty skeletons of domestic spaces. They’re dimly lit, furnished with things like a shopping cart and strategically placed boom boxes (all playing recordings of auctions). They feel dire and resourceful at once, but not as pithily affecting as that bat shit video. They don’t really need to be, however. They’re set pieces, situations to wander through while wondering how to untangle the crazy from capitalism.
David Snyder: 2THNDNL runs January 23-March 6, 2016 at Michael Benevento (3712 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90004).