Review: Christine Negus at Gallery TPW.

January 27, 2012 § Leave a comment

Christine Negus’ works presented at Gallery TPW embody the exhibit’s title you can’t spell slaughter without laughter.The neon sign that condenses the exhibition title into (s)laughter, with the “s” flickering on and off, characterizes the show. Consisting of six animated videos and two other installations, the exhibit showcases pieces that express a duality of disturbingly grotesque narratives with seemingly innocent characters. The voices of children describe terrifying stories, pop songs dissolve into unsettling and awkward sequences and the cosmos becomes one child’s trauma.

Negus’ most recent video “Hope/alone” takes Jack Johnson’s song “Hope” and morphs what appears to be a cheery pop song into a sinister chorus of voices that leaves the viewer haunted by the lyrics “better hope you’re not alone.”

On the wall leading the viewer back to the main room of the exhibit is “oh, those sad lonely beasts!” This perverse display of wreaths combined with artificial hair resembles festive costumes. Yet the work has a disturbing undertone appearing like a trophy collection of scalps from different cultures.

The disconcerting song “we can’t see their shape from this far away” can be heard throughout the gallery. The projected video starts with each star popping into the night sky with the sound of a few notes. The stars take on a menacing quality as they launch into a harmony that suggests an otherworldly presence that is always watching. The last line “watching you scream” obliterates the night sky and leaves the viewer startled, staring at a chilling blank screen.

“Secret galaxy” turns specks of dust from a keyboard into memories. Each crumb is a new memory, relating stories of the narrator’s past to colorful balls of dust that are later revealed to be planets in a diorama. The most unsettling memory, when the narrator is molested by her 8th grade teacher, is represented by a visual of earth. With this work Negus comments on the magnitude sexual abuse has on its victims, symbolically it becomes their whole world.

Negus’ works play on the concept of the vastness of the cosmos mirroring everyday traumas. It is through these short but succinct videos that nostalgia is expressed through humor and irony. You can’t spell slaughter without laughter not only compels the viewer, but leaves them traumatized.

you can’t spell slaughter without laughter runs until February 18.

– Sophia Farmer

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