Critics’ Picks

Matthew Billings, BwO Continued_ (detail), 2021, 4K video, color, sound, 14 minutes 21 seconds.

Matthew Billings, BwO Continued_ (detail), 2021, 4K video, color, sound, 14 minutes 21 seconds.


Matthew Billings

Löwengasse 1
November 19–December 18, 2021

One way to sum up Matthew Billings’s solo show “The Cave, the Site, the Boutique, the Tower” is to ask: What does a social-media feed see when it looks in the mirror? Installed across the four floors of the artist-run gallery Löwengasse, the exhibition unleashes a fast-paced flood of sensory input that plunges viewers into the artist’s own struggle to make sense of it all. Post-produced on his phone, Billings’s videos push a barrage of visual and sonic material to the brink of legibility. In The Couple (all works cited 2021), the artist force-fed iPhone footage of a YouTube trailer for Alvin And The Chipmunks 2 through every Instagram filter available to him at that moment. Set to the chopped and screwed sounds of Foreigner’s “I Want to Know What Love Is,” an endless succession of cute computer-generated eyes blink and swoon their way into hallucinatory grids and mandalas—a meditation on the commodity of heterosexual love, beatific in its banality.

By far the standout video—if you can still call it a video—is BwO Continued. For this work, Billings edits a mixture of personal and found footage until there’s nothing left to see but a mass of dismembered pixels, twitching and trembling with preprogrammed longing. The protagonists here are a series of floating spheres, fitful Fabergé eggs that variously function as orbs, orifices, or mirrors. They speak to us in an undulating electronic groan, while their bodies refract the networked world around them. So what does a social-media stream see? Vicarious images masticated, metabolized, and shat out into little diamonds of desire. And it wants more.