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Review: Jennifer West’s Flashlight Filmstrip Projections

Friday, September 19, 2014



Entering a pitch-black room with only a flashlight to guide you is not the way one might initially imagine their experience in a work of art. However, in artist Jennifer West’s newest exhibition of work, Flashlight Filmstrip Projections, that is precisely the situation you will find yourself in.

The work is part of the visual arts selection, "As round as an apple, As deep as a cup" at PICA’s TBA Festival, and its first step is to provide visitors with a bright, high-power flashlight to view the work. 

Once inside, you discover though exploration that the room you find yourself in is industrial and huge, and that hanging from the ceiling at body level are many large glass sheets organized around the room. Each one is covered in vertically arranged film strips, and the content on them varies widely – from images of hands against bright backdrops, to video cameras, to wishbones, to clear filmstrips covered in splattered color. 

Shining the flashlight on the filmstrips is the only way to see what they contain, but something else much more intriguing happens when the light is shined from afar. As light passes through, the color and images of each filmstrip start to dance across the walls around them, as they are projected far from their original locations. 

Playing with where the light is shining creates different sizes and shapes of projections, distorting the space of the exhibition, and disorienting the viewer inside of it. In addition, there is rarely ever only one projection happening at once. Instead, they layer over each other on the walls, mixing and meshing, growing larger and smaller, creating new images in the process. 

Although the photos are attractive in their own right, this game of enlargement and distortion that occurs is far more alluring and interesting. 

The encounter with the work changes drastically when viewed with others as opposed to alone. When there are several visitors in the room at once, the many projections layer and play off of each other, and parts of the room, hidden when viewers are by themselves, are revealed by the various light sources. As a projection that you might be exploring suddenly changes and shifts due to the new light sources being shined from across the room – the sense of control over experience, first activated by the giving of the flashlight, is startled and shattered. 

In consequence, you, too, along with the shadows and light, must shift to receive and understand it. 

Jennifer West's Flashlight Filmstrip Projections is at THE WORKS as Fashion Tech, part of PICA’s TBA Festival 2010 SE 8th Ave, Portland OR 97214

Open daily, noon–6 p.m., Sept. 11–Oct. 30, 2014

Performances 8:30 p.m. Sept. 16, and 10 p.m. Sept. 17.


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