Critics’ Picks

Diane Nerwen, The Thief of Baghdad, 2003.

Diane Nerwen, The Thief of Baghdad, 2003.

New York

“Hard Times”

Jessica Murray Projects
150 Eleventh Avenue
June 20–July 28, 2003

Times are hard indeed, but this show offers a welcome respite. Sit yourself down on Bart Bettencourt and Colleen Smiley’s comfy ottomans and view the program of six videos that collectively clock in at a brisk fifteen minutes. Karina Aguilera Skvirsky’s Margaret, 2002, is a painterly presentation of television footage of Kenyan Margaret Okayo’s triumphant run in the 2001 New York City Marathon. In a voice-over, excerpts from a European explorer’s African travelogue ironically double as Okayo’s thoughts. In Lynn Sullivan’s Veronica’s Veil, 2002, noisy, dirty Manhattan magically disappears as a letter-size piece of paper blocks the camera lens, immediately effecting both white space and white noise. In Hall, 2002, Lisa Oppenheim recalls tenants who paced the corridors of her parents’ apartment building, while strobelike editing keeps the work moving hypnotically forward. From The Thief of Baghdad, Diane Nerwen splices together a satire layered with sound bites from films like Giant, Lawrence of Arabia, and The Yellow Rose of Texas. Out of these elements comes the story of a Texan named George, who goes to Baghdad and tries to be a savior—only to be murdered for being an evil presence upon the land. If only life were like the movies.