Pussy Weevil Marina ZurkowDarkly Comic

Exhibition at FACT, Wood Street
10th December - 30th January 2005

Reviewed by Kenn Taylor

The FACT’s latest exhibition begs the eternal question: what is art? More specifically: can cartoons and computer games be seen as art?

Showing in both of the galleries and the media lounge, Darkly Comic features the work of two multimedia artists who use the popular culture appeal of animation and video games to get their points across.

Marina Zurkow’s vivid and garishly colourful animations are shown on hanging transparent screens, and are certainly eye-catching. The ever-changing surreal scenes of a young girl moving through a psychedelic world compells the viewer to stay for a long time, and walking round the gallery is quite an experience. Pussy Weevil - her interactive motion sensor exhibit is amusing, for a while at least. However, I found Zurkow’s explanations of her work a little pretentious and I failed to see the “structure of the Tibetan wheel of existence” or the “parody of Bush’s inarticulate displays of bravura” in the squawking of chickens and a little animated man running about. Maybe I’m not smart enough. Good animation though.

By contrast, Eddo Stern’s work convincingly displays his concern for the current political climate and armed conflict in particular. In particular, his multimedia sculptures Crusade and USS Dragoon examine the American war machine and how acceptance of war seeps into popular culture through video games and film. However, perhaps it is his ‘Machinima’ works - made by recording video game play - that are his best. The first - Vietnam Romance - uses a host of notoriously violent video games to recreate scenes from famous Vietnam movies. Set to a tinny 1960s soundtrack, it’s a quite visceral experience and it was one of the few times I have been really absorbed by a piece of video art; it really made me think about how the media revels in and glorifies violent conflict. Stern’s other Machinima piece - Sheik Attack - examines the conflict between Lebanon and his native Israel. Setting the history of the conflict to a soundtrack of traditional Israeli songs allows it to be quite gripping as well as informative. This is art that actually says something.

Darkly Comic is a truly innovative and interesting exhibition of new art that really makes the visitor interact with the works, experiencing them rather than just looking at them on walls.

Check out http://www.fact.co.uk for details of special events relating to the exhibition.