Harry Dodge

Armory Center for the Arts
145 N. Raymond Ave.
October 2, 2016–January 8, 2017

Harry Dodge, Mysterious Fires, 2016, single-channel video, color, sound, 24 minutes, 30 seconds.

A cyborg, a poodle, and an unassembled IKEA bookshelf walk into a bar. The bartender asks, “Let me guess, lost the instructions?” The cyborg says, “This DIY mess is bullshit. Can’t we come up with a more efficient and tidy manner in which to assemble and install our basic needs—our medicine cabinets, our midcentury knock-off nightstands, our interchangeable shelving units?” The poodle says, “I barely defecate anymore. And when I do, my excrement smells like peaches and suntan lotion. I’ve also perfected my haircut to be both aero- and aqua-dynamic.” The IKEA bookshelf says, “Yes, we have lost the instructions.”

In “The Inner Reality of Ultra-Intelligent Life,” Harry Dodge breaks the veneer of spectatorship to reveal a fourth wall that is as flimsy as that box-store furniture set. The single-channel video Mysterious Fires, 2016, uses the nuances of conversation as both medium and fodder. Two characters are engaged in a tête-à-tête that ping-pongs from bohemian discussions of the ethics of robotics to bourgeois arguments over Cardigan versus Pembroke Welsh Corgis. The pair go off-script and ask for lost lines, which are volleyed back by off-screen voices, defying the mastery of a narrative. The duo wears costumes and rubber masks, dissolving and layering their individual identities. What, after all, is the purpose of constructing legible works with bodies that refuse to cohere? And where do the mess, the contamination, and humor of being human fit into the quest for perfection?

The works here, including older drawings and sculptures, absorb a viewer into the drama of Dodge’s world: a zone neither here nor there, nor anywhere. From this uncomfortable place of indeterminacy, Dodge faces the audience in a search for life that recognizes the joke.

— Meg Whiteford