Late Nights at the Whitney
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Edgar Cleijne and Ellen Gallagher collaborate to produce immersive film environments that present complex symbolic systems and narratives. BETTER DIMENSION, on view in 2010, features figurative and abstract images projected in a room walled in by sliding panels. At the center, a bust of John F. Kennedy’s head rotates around an LP, while organic abstract forms, resulting from painted glass slide projections, move across the walls of the room. The texts and graphics on the panels are partly based on the polemical broadsheets and pamphlets of the American Illusionist Black Herman (famous in the 1920s and early 1930s for his “buried alive” act) and jazz musician Sun Ra. Highly influenced by Black Herman, Sun Ra brought a theatrical magic to his concerts—what he called “cosmic dramas”—from the 1950s to the 1990s, claiming he was from outer space and was pioneering a new musical form. His exhortations to launch a space age mirrored President Kennedy’s agenda as well as the fascination of the American people with space travel and the increasingly elastic sense of space in general. In the spirit of Sun Ra, whose music destabilized an origin myth to create the possibility of a new form, BETTER DIMENSION combines figurative and abstract elements to produce a visual poem.
--_Frieze_ (March 2004)