This week, Los Angeles based video artist, Andrew Thomas Huang released his latest body of work, Interstice, at Milk Studios’ Milk Gallery. Huang, whose previous work includes video pieces with Björk and Legs Media, has produced a collection of videos and PhotoChrome prints inspired by traditional Chinese dance, self-destructive demons, occultism and the symbolism of the veil. The video clips feature one dance crew performing different sets of movements deeply rooted in the lion dances. Huang witnessed as a child in Los Angeles’ Chinatown. The combination of immersion video segments and archival pigment PhotoChrome prints mixes violence and sexuality with loss, emptiness and anonymity, creating an experience that fills the viewer with a forbidden, yet peaceful energy.
The immersion videos are the main attraction here, featuring lush red painted sets, and dancers moving amongst themselves, or playing with various props: thrones, black wigs, and long strips of red fabric. The second video wall is by far the most powerful. The beginning features dancers fixated on a throne and then waving the red strips of fabric, lined with black wig hairs, across the floor. The fabric moves in slow, undulating ripples, evoking the image of blood moving through veins. The video itself takes on a naturalistic overtone, as if the dancers are moving in slow motion to an undefined master’s heartbeat. Then a man’s face is in focus, each time a layer is removed from his head (a red cloth, a metal helmet, portions of long black wigs), facial features are never revealed, and the layers move in and out of one another, like the dancers in other clips. These feature their bodies meshed in a psycho-sensual play, each differentiated by turquoise claws worn on their fingers. The dancers are united by two centralized inanimate powers personified: the incense vase and the throne. The real incense vase perfumes the room with a burnt jasmine and cottony scent. This mixes with the surround sound of indiscernible chants, rippling fabric and the clanging of chains turning the entire room into a cloudy bubble, both literally and figuratively.
While the videos themselves are united by this immersion and their content, they lack internal cohesion, without definition in a single emotion. For example, the back wall widescreen video and the PhotoChrome prints work together to convey loss and meaninglessness, which clashes with the more violent independent video walls. The back wall’s faceless dancers are consumed with a single object working through a single motion on a never changing path. Similarly, the demons in the prints are constantly running away from some evil force. Individual neon-tinged sexual episodes were set apart in a mess of shadowy grey or blue, making them look as if they existed within nothing, and that they too were nothing. The independent video walls morphs real bodies into unreal scenarios. The lack of fantasy in the sets here don’t allow for repression. One has to believe in the dark graphic motions and see them as reality.
Though all the elements never collide to fit one specific emotional theme, what the collection did evoke was a sense of peace which radiates around the space with palpable exotic energy. The violence of the faceless bodies moving together, either in human or demon form, creates forbidden images that move away from their traditional inspirations into something decidedly darker, more magical. While Interstice plays with the idea of a forced irrational reality, it allows the viewer to remain detached from the images on screen because of the anonymous figures. This lack of internalization allows the subject and spectator to be equated, coexisting harmoniously in the virtual reality of Huang’s imagination. This sensation is both supportive and extremely satisfying. The viewer doesn’t have to lay claim to any of the uncomfortable emotions being portrayed on screen, even though many are universal in our subconscious.
[Interstice is on display at The Milk Gallery at 450 W. 15th St. in New York until April 3.]
Words: Annunziata Santelli
Images courtesy of Milk Gallery and LEGS