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Inside Jesse Fleming’s video installation at Five Car Garage, viewers are invited to languish in the virtual reproduction of a mechanical car wash. Meditation cushions are placed just a few feet away from the video screen, projected on the back wall of the namesake five-car garage. Stitching together three camera perspectives, the film captures various angles of a car riding through nine conveyor car washes. Shot with a fisheye lens, the central image gives a sense of tunnel vision, while the side views exaggerate the feeling of extra-peripheral sight.
Accompanied by an original soundtrack reminiscent of the hippie-synth of Terry Riley, Fleming’s installation offers an unquestionably sensorial experience. Magnified droplets of water rest on the glass surface of the camera’s lens, perceptually tangible. Yet this particular wash, as indicated by the show’s title, Jane the Baptist, is suggestive of a spiritual cleanse and rebirth, rather than the quotidian vanity of a squeaky-clean car. The cameras glide through the automated rollers in hypnotic synchronization with the video’s electronic score, as if the carwash were aestheticized into a cyber-rave nostalgia trip.
Fleming is a certified mindfulness instructor and before the exhibition, he led a six-week meditation course to support its production. Techniques used in meditation to focus attention inwards are externally manifest in Fleming’s tunnelled perspective, ethereal lighting, a new-agey soundtrack, and comfortable back support. In effect, to lie down on the garage floor of the gallery and immerse oneself in Fleming’s video is to be transported out of the mechanized reality of everyday life and into the realm of the immaterial. Though, this metaphorical cleanse is immediately challenged as one stumbles back into the stupor of Southern California traffic.