From a very Ogden-y room with blue-grey walls, small, oldish framed paintings from the American South, I can see some kind of large, glittery triptych/window-object in the corner of the darkened gallery next door. I can hear it too; there is an audio track, not music or voices, but sounds. I am here for a third time to see Dave Greber’s solo exhibition The Casebearer at the Ogden Museum. Stepping into the first room of his three-room exhibition is a but like stepping into another dimension.
The triptych/window object only piece in the room is titled Windfall (tapestry 5), was made in collaboration with Sophia Belkin. The frame or window sashes and irregular grills sparkle in the light of the video projected onto it. Small sparkly objects, gems, a metal-enamel daisy brooch. The light escapes the edges of the piece from time to time, flashing and floating across the wall as if cast from the headlights of passing cars. But not exactly. Up close, the video seems shot through a screen, but not exactly. I also think I see water droplets on a window and then I’m not sure. In the video, shapes fall, appear to collect, and then they fall again accompanied by a tinkling sound that somehow matches the falling. Some of the falling shapes, maybe like puzzle pieces or broken things, are themselves small pieces of video. The effect is continuous action of trap and drop, kind of like Tetris, or a lava lamp, or a 1980s Fisher-Price baby toy, or a kaleidoscope. But none of those exactly. This piece evokes a kind of proto-plastic neo-nostalgia. It plays with physics in a digital, semi-physical space.
This piece, like all of the work in the show, presents information that almost feels familiar. As you draw closer, on second thought, it’s a mashup of brand new data and almost deja-vu.
In the next gallery the work hangs on light grey walls in the familiar museum way. On the right side of the gallery are chunky collages made of what looks like semi-flattened cardboard trash behind plexiglass. This series is titled t.E.R.o.U.Rs (The Empty Remains of Unused Revelations). The components of the constructions look like the packaging of objects I once knew; there is something retro about them. The color maybe? An obsolete logo? But then I don’t recognize any of the packaging or the objects they supposedly contained. I think it’s all been fabricated. The effect is disorienting. It tampers with memory and my sense of recognition. Why would anyone go to such lengths to make what passes as trash, albeit trash after transcendence. It feels like a decoy.
On the opposite wall are mirrors, a series titled Seeing Glass(es). The mirrors come in unfamiliar shapes and most of my reflection is interrupted…by…by things stuck on the mirror, by marks on the mirror, and by the construction of the mirror itself. Both series of work seem to made in imitation of human objects, as if by human-impostors, aliens who don’t really get what the purpose of a mirror is or where trash comes from, but are trying to fit in. The Radiohead Song “Fitter Happier” starts playing in my mind, then “Subterranean Homesick Alien.”
Speaking of…like the victim of an alien abduction returned without memory, I have seen this show two times before and each time I leave intending to write about it, I can’t exactly recall the work or what I was thinking as I looked at it. Twice I lost my grasp of it the way one loses a dream because the subconscious world does not correlate exactly with the waking world. Now, I am sitting on the floor writing this entire column here in the gallery so I can get it down in real time, so I can put it in a form more reliable than memory.
In the last gallery there is a projected video titled The Casebearer 2.0. (A casebearer is a moth that makes those kind of creepy cocoons you see on the walls here in New Orleans.) The video has subtitles and there is a plot. Sort of. There are characters. Sort of. What I sort of recognize gets me into the deep space of the video, floating and stars. Then I realize the voice that was speaking has lapsed into gibberish. The video is creepy but I’m not sure why. The video is pretty and weird and garish. And I think it’s funny. Or is it gross?
The work in this show mixes the familiar unfamiliar and points to the subconscious terror of Not Knowing, of being alien. The viewer becomes a newcomer in a space where there is a lack of solid or reliable information. The takeaway is–or maybe isn’t–the things we think we know are less firm, less rooted, less real than we thought they were. We are strange creatures in strange spaces.
When I exit the show, re-entering to the Ogden-y room of paintings, everything seems to have shifted while I was away. I feel sort of alien in that space and the feeling lasts until I exit the building into the sunlight and have to remember where I parked my car.