Academic journal article Afterimage

Into the Zoetrope

Academic journal article Afterimage

Into the Zoetrope

Article excerpt

Innuendo Non Troppo by Gregory Barsamian The Contemporary Arts Center Cincinnati, Ohio September 5-November 1, 1998

Gregory Barsamian's art is one of synchronicity and illusion. Reviving and elaborating on the form of the nineteenth-century zoetrope, "innuendo Non Troppo" contains nine works, six of which were especially created for the exhibition and not previously exhibited. In the original zoetropes images lined the inside of a cylinder. While the device spins rapidly, the viewer peers through carefully placed slits on the side of the cylinder to perceive a sequential motion. Unlike the nineteenth-century version in which the viewer remains outside the device, Barsamian's sometimes room-sized zoetropes affect the viewer's entire environment. His large, whirling armatures combine with stroboscopic lights to create dream-like sequences of movement, using tiny figures, toys and other objects attached to armatures as well as shadowy images cast on the wall.

At first encounter, the work is overwhelming, even confusing. Set in a strobe-lit darkness, each sculpture occupying its own space, Barsamian's narratives use condensed imagery from his own dreams to explore the uncanny. Combining an interest in Jungian psychology and Nietzschean world-building, Barsamian uses open-ended, suggestive imagery that directly challenges viewers to create their own interpretations. Reading the work is often tricky, as meaning seems to lie just below the surface. Barsamian's necromancy of dreams posits time as one locus of anxiety since it is ultimately beyond our control. This is reflected by the curious sense that many of his narratives can be read backward as well as foreword.

For example, in Copraphagia (1991), in which a wad of newspaper bursts into a room from the rear to chase a fresh dog turd, the paper and the excrement seem locked in a dance. The dance metaphor appears again in Two Step (1997), in which a photograph of a couple is torn in two and as one half floats to the ground, it rolls into itself to form a glass of milk, spills out and reforms into the original half of the photo to meet its twin at the base of the sculpture. As repetition is intrinsic to the zoetrope's design, the narrative always returns to the exact place from which each sequence began. …

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