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Startle Reaction – Torsten Lauschmann

Dundee Contemporary Arts, October 22nd 2011-January 8th 2012
4 stars
You don’t immediately notice the quieter, more domestic pieces in
Torsten Lauschmann’s biggest box of tricks to date. The subverted
digital clock above the DCA box office and the wired-up chandelier that
hangs in Gallery One, where two of Lauschmann’s films are looped,
aren’t as flashy as the rest of what’s on show. They don’t seek to
dazzle and disorientate; they don’t beep or buzz, flash or fade, whirr
or whizz like much else on show in Lauschmann’s gently immersive
time-sequenced theme-park he hood-winks us into believing in. Yet, for
all their functional discretion, these two pieces nevertheless shed
light on the big, tangled-up mess of interconnectivity that Startle
Reaction is all about.

This is clear too in his films. Misshapen Pearl is an impressionistic
meditation on the place where natural light morphs into neon. Artifice
as well as interconnectivity exists in Skipping Over Damaged Areas,
which edits seemingly incongruous big-screen title sequences to make up
a phony narrative given trailer-like credence by a big-talking
voiceover.

Elsewhere, lost jockeys in flight become computer-jammed still lives; a
mansion resembling Rebecca’s Manderlay becomes a piece of cut-out shape
shadow-play; and a player-piano bashes out little modernist cacophonies
while snow falls into the light like some sub-Beckettian floor-show.
Beckett is there too in the show’s most oddly poignant piece, in which
a projector seemingly gazes out of the gallery window, its computerised
voice yearning to be among the street-lights and the CCTV cameras in
the concrete jungle where night turns to day and back again.

Personified and sentimentalised like the ‘injured’ robot in Douglas
Trumball’s eco-hippy sci-fi fable, Silent Running, there’s a sense of
eternal disappointment to the projector’s monologue. This is
surveillance-culture Happy Days. The projector’s head may not be buried
in the sand, but, bolted immobile, it’s still forced to watch the world
pass by, the sun forever out of reach.

The List, December 2011

ends

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