New York

Daniel Faust

Daniel Faust has put together a 90-minute programmed display of his photographs entitled A Slide Show, 1989, for which Dan Cameron has composed the music (some of it an eclectic blend of existing recordings) and Michael Ballou has designed two collaged panels for either side of the screen, and seating in the form of benches. The vast majority of Faust’s slides are of various museum exhibitions, with a special attention paid to wax museums—the ultimate instance, the viewer is soon convinced, of the hyperreal.

Among the 960 images are a number of Elvis Presleys, Adolf Hitlers, William Shakespeares, gruesome murderers, coins of American presidents, miniature scenes of how Native Americans once lived, depictions of space travel, and so on. The sheer number of images mutes their humor, as well as that of their pronouncements, such as “Measure up to Early Man,” or “An additional American every 21 seconds,” and instead leaves the viewer pondering the significance of how threadbare these ideologically overloaded constructions of knowledge and history appear to be.

Cameron’s soundtrack, despite patches of Muzak, acts more often like an oasis of the real, as the recordings he has chosen seem to offer indexical traces of something that appears lacking from the visual representations: they offer “sounder” proof of a possible subjective distance between where the viewer sits and what is passing ceaselessly before his or her eyes. Ballou’s benches are shaped like the coastal outlines of the continents, but the seriousness of his intentions, attested to by one of a plethora of texts accompanying the exhibition, seems lost in the darkened room. Together with Ballou’s panels, which are made of puzzle pieces and urban detritus thumb-tacked to billboards, the seating evokes the feeling that the gallery space has been made to resemble a darkened sideroom at a museum. The benches seem vainly intended (but here perhaps self-consciously) to add the special touch that makes the visitor feel, “You are there.”

Faust has made the show precisely 90 minutes long, with one intermission that falls exactly halfway through the piece. The generic duration does perhaps add one more level of hyperreality, but it’s a wearisome device, and Faust has some difficulty filling the time effectively. The incessant use of dissolves of equal duration is also numbing and works to deny the viewer’s subjectivity. Faust seems less sure of questions raised by the editing process, and he relies on cinematic conventions he might have been better off questioning.

Richard C. Ledes