Centre A, Vancouver
November 14 to December 20, 2008
By Ann Rosenberg
The soundtrack of Louise Noguchi’s 1999 ten-video installation Study/Sketch is set up in the purposely darkened interior space at Centre A Gallery. It features a repetitive clang reminiscent of a temple gong, a funerary tolling suitable to the implied outcome of Noguchi’s masochistic work. The principle action shows the artist mounted on a revolving target while a professional rodeo performer tosses knives at her. The artist looks composed and fearless in the face of danger, and blinks and winks are exchanged between thrower and accomplice. The viewer knows the artist will survive (the knives embedded in the target are crude fakes), but the work still generates anxiety and empathy, particularly when the wheel unexpectedly changes direction.
Noguchi’s fascination with cowboy culture relates to her profound interest in movies and movie stereotypes. While the spectator is immersed in Study/Sketch, sounds from a different source occasionally intermingle with the audio track of the rotating bullseye. Sharp, intermittent pops suggest the action of a rifle or BB gun, coming from a large screen TV to the left of the gallery’s entrance.
In her 2001 video Crack, an off-camera figure is cracking a whip so quickly the camera can’t detect it. The lash destroys a succession of beautiful white flowers Noguchi holds in out-stretched hands. When the flowers are torn apart, petals fly like feathers after the impact. I thought I heard the faint twitters of frightened birds. The artist wears black haori, traditional Japanese Buddhist funeral attire, and one of the three blossoms cut by the lash is a white chrysanthemum.
This second installation is made up of two recent Noguchi pieces — Mirror and Shanghai Dragon — that follow her special connection with the fantasy world of cinema, in this case, the Star Wars movies and the ancillary products that extend the film’s narratives and characters. The brightly lit, pink-painted Styrofoam turrets in the interior gallery space could be connected to the high-desert structures on George Lucas’ planet Tatooine. The sculptures have an attractive/repellent quality, cloying but highly effective (Noguchi calls them moisture forms). Like the video pieces, the assembly is satisfyingly intricate, thought-provoking, and self-revelatory.