Magazine article Artforum International

Michael Bell-Smith: Foxy Production

Magazine article Artforum International

Michael Bell-Smith: Foxy Production

Article excerpt

Like a marriage vow or a death sentence, the announcement inaugurating "rabbit season" or "duck season" is a speech act that changes everything, particularly if you are a duck or a rabbit. Or, for that matter, a wabbit. Michael Bell-Smith's "Rabbit Season, Duck Season," his fourth solo exhibition at Foxy Production, took its title from the existential comedy set-pieces enacted by Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Elmer Fudd in the 1951 Looney Tunes short Rabbit Fire, in which duck and rabbit attempt to outwit each other--and their hunter--by switching game seasons and thusly reasserting whose turn it is to die.

Bell-Smith's new video (all works 2014) opens with alternating high-definition shots of glisteningly lush forest foliage and windblown white clouds on a blue sky, with a sound track consisting of the pastoral swells of Edvard Grieg's 1876 "Morning Mood" suite from Peer Gynt. The sequence is a paradigmatic expression of soothing, kitsch-Romantic banality, while also recalling the kind of visual and aural wallpaper used to showcase high-end AV equipment. The video pings indecisively, and with increasing pace, between earth and sky before three animated words, I CAN EXPLAIN, fall, heavy as anvils, onto the screen. A Looney Tunes style cartoon sequence follows, in which a poster stuck to a tree advertising "rabbit season" is ripped away to reveal another poster beneath it, this one advertising "duck season," which is itself ripped away to reveal "rabbit season" again, and vice versa ad infinitum, while subtitles ruminate on the logic of this game until a shot is eventually fired. "But no one has to get shot," the subtitles chide us, as we switch to a white backdrop, on which Ping-Pong balls circulate and bounce in explanatory diagrams, suggesting the interchangeability of terms such as "rabbit, duck"; "visible, invisible"; "cool, uncool." Before long, we have fallen down a Wittgensteinian rabbit hole, as the screen cuts to a shot of the words WHAT IS REAL? being typed into a search-engine box. A computer desktop scrolls through images of Ping-Pong balls, as though in response. "I'm tired," reads a text superimposed on one of the balls. "I don't want to make any more decisions today." A cascade of stock images follows. …

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