Critics’ Picks

Hilja Keading, The Bonkers Devotional, 2010, four-channel video installation with stereo sound, 13 minutes 30 seconds. Installation view.

Los Angeles

Hilja Keading

Angles Gallery
2754 S. La Cienega Blvd.
November 6 - December 23

In The Bonkers Devotional, 2010, Hilja Keading presents a four-channel video installation that deftly weaves together allegories of archetype and absurdity, all informed by her interest in nature. The exterior walls of a room within the gallery are disguised by projections of golden aspens, their leaves fluttering in the wind. Inside, the ceiling is covered with a canopy of military camouflage netting, while projections fill two adjacent walls with offset views of the interior of a small room not unlike the one in which viewers sit.

In the video, Keading herself is seated on a bed, uncomfortably close to an enormous black bear, her stoic expression betraying subtle anxiety. Sometimes she accepts the bear’s nudges; at other times she shies away with fearful anticipation. The eight-hundred-pound bear takes up most of the room, and Keading’s blonde locks conjure childhood fairy tales. Ursine icons accent the room—a child’s stuffed animal, bear-patterned sheets—and, by contrast, fortify the actuality of the natural bear. Hairy and brutish, the bear seems quite male in his dominant and clumsy yet powerful presence, and he appears to hold the girl captive, physically and emotionally, with his mere potential for violence.

Each video is meticulously edited and reveals parallels between the actions of Keading and the bear, as they each look out the window, look at a clock, stand near a dresser, and sit on the bed. The piece elegantly offers up an exploration of common dichotomies: nature and culture, interior and exterior, masculinity and femininity, delicacy and intensity. As Keading and the bear tolerate and negotiate each other’s presence without resolution or capitulation, we are reminded of the profound complexities of the worlds we inhabit.