Critics’ Picks

Eve Sussman and the Rufus Corporation, whiteonwhite:algorithmicnoir, 2011, still from a continuously looping color video.

New York

Eve Sussman and the Rufus Corporation

Cristin Tierney
540 West 28th Street
September 15–October 22

Eve Sussman and the Rufus Corporation’s latest film, whiteonwhite:algorithmicnoir, 2011, portrays a dystopian future. The film is set in City-A, where austere plazas, socialist realist monuments, and cinder-block apartment buildings suggest a Soviet history. There is no fresh water. Traces of lithium taint the recycled water supply, contenting the citizenry. A language ration dictates the expiration of words. Time passes at an altered, controlled rate. The film follows Mr. Holz, a geophysicist on an unexplained assignment, who surveys City-A’s factories, oil fields, and kitschy landmarks. He navigates the city alone, and, in cluttered apartments, he watches television, makes phone calls, and checks the time. He is picked up, an action implying that his presence in City-A is suspect and under surveillance.

Sussman and the Rufus Corporation produced this retro-futuristic film noir from two years of footage that they shot across central Asia. A computer remixes nearly three thousand clips of footage, spoken and subtitled narration, and music in continuous random sequence, all called up by an algorithm. The incongruous repetition of visual and audio clips in an infinite pseudonarrative is equally uncanny and compelling. Lines of cryptic text and symbols scroll on a monitor in a makeshift cinema in the gallery, theoretically illuminating the film’s structure.

The titular reference to Malevich’s 1918 painting prompts consideration of the montage according to Suprematism. As the movement manifested an objective geometric language, Sussman’s film exemplifies a cinematic semiotics. But the implication of sequential narrative in the film, reinforced by presumed cinematic conventions, demonstrates the paradoxical subjectivity of technology. It mocks the viewer who hopes to make out a clear narrative or anyone who expects resolution.