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The strange (or estranged) relationship between the image and the physical body feels especially urgent at the moment, telegraphed by things like deepfakes and Twitch that are evolving faster than most of us can respond. Dylan Mira is right in step. Her latest work at Park View / Paul Soto, although it comes close to some of video art’s clichés (jump-cut confessions with computer graphics, amateurs acting out opaque dramas), also demonstrates what the medium does so well. It cuts across the real and the imagined—while retaining the gravitas of this transgression. Indeed, the work’s play between the virtual and the actual contains a witchy magic worth getting tangled in.
As you pull open the dark gallery doors on Washington Blvd. and step through vertical plastic blinds, you feel Soto’s small space expand with the force of silvery projections on every surface. Two Plexiglas panels hanging from the ceiling are overlaid with holographic film, receiving and also refracting footage around the room. Sound alternately issues from four speakers installed in the gallery’s corners, batting you around the space as you follow the voices and animal sounds. It’s light, and a little confusing how everything fits together. Sometimes the soundtrack corresponds with the imagery, but often it does not: in one of the more literal audio moments, Mira intones, “every piece of the hologram contains every piece of the picture.” The picture in this case includes stuffed tigers in glass cases, a set of steps against dry hills, a group of women dancing in a plaza, even a green screen with graphic icons—all part of a cosmology that remains too visual, too heady, and too personal, like a private stream-of-consciousness.
But a jumpy sequence with two women ritually torching a chair collapses the space between the living and the dead with an immediacy that is instantly palpable. The chinoiserie style chair—a European (mis)representation of East Asian culture—conjures colonial violence and lingering racism. The night-darkened video makes the moving figures ghostly and the chair’s carved back resembles curved horns on a skull or the pelvis of a bare skeleton. Mira sits down as it smolders and smokes, her living body lining up precisely with the pelvic shape and proposing another site for the persistence of memory.
Lest you take the chair’s ordeal/exorcism as a fantasy, the scorched antique pictured in the video also squats on Soto’s cement floor, beneath one of the suspended Plexi panels. Its blackened solidity extends to everything you’ve just seen, exerting force that insists on the attachment of the images to their referents. The chair’s presence in the gallery contends that Mira’s picture—every piece of it—isn’t frictionless or weightless, casually disposing of the real. These individual and collective hauntings are alive and well, with the “new” medium calling up the very old and joining the cerebral and the constructed to the fleshy and the felt.
Dylan Mira: The Book of Fixed Stars. cryotype runs from September 14–November 9, 2019 at Park View / Paul Soto (2271 W. Washington Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90018)