REVIEW Sixteen minutes with Lars Laumann? Well, I didn't say no, and discovered that his video Morrissey Foretelling the Death of Diana is as uncanny as its title is ludicrous. This present-day conspiratorial artifact makes a Smiths devotee feel like Jim Garrison during a virgin viewing of the Zapruder film. Laumann weds a looped melody from the Smiths' instrumental "Oscillate Wildly" to TV news footage, music-video clips, and visions from the '60s kitchen sink cinema that have inspired (and provided) Morrissey lyrics, using all of the above as a backdrop to a voice-over lecture that links the 1986 album The Queen Is Dead to the Aug. 31, 1997, death of Princess Diana. Even if you have no interest in (or an aversion toward) the title's pair of late 20th-century British cult figures, the result casts a comic yet eerie spell.
At this point, it's fair to say that Smiths-inspired art has become a subgenre, a phenomenon flourishing to the degree that it deserves a book-length essay ironic, since most of the video and visual art projects responding to Morrissey and company are far superior to the shelf of books that have been written off of his name.
Laumann's video doesn't pack the emotional wallop of the Istanbul-set karaoke in Phil Collins's installation dünya dinlemiyor (The world won't listen), which did time at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art last fall. But the Oslo, Norway, artist is exploring something different than is Collins, whose update of Andy Warhol's screen tests allows for compassionate views and expressions of fandom. Drawing heavily from David Alice's site www.dianamystery.com, Laumann's short work reaches for the extraterrestrial stars in presenting the organic quality of conspiracy theory during the Internet era. As in Lutz Dammbeck's Unabomber documentary The Net, the final conclusion (if there is such a thing) matters less than the numerous revelatory or ludicrous destinations that are part of the narrative's crazy maze.
Morrissey Foretelling the Death of Diana helps kick off a staggered series of videos showcased over the next two months in "There Is Always a Machine Between Us," at SF Camerawork. Curated by Kate Fowle, Karla Milosevich, Chuck Mobley, and Chuck Orendorff, the overall exhibition toys with Skype, mouse-triggered wall projections, and an orange-hued approximation of living-room DVD viewing. Some viewers might find it inherently problematic for lo-res video to receive bigger-screen treatment. Regardless, the varied combos of form and context here aren't as provocative as the material gleaned by the select group of Web trolls whose research is on display.
Web trolling as gallery fodder is this just one more ploy to destruct ye olde sacred art space so it can be mistaken for YouTube or an amusement park? If so, I'm happy that the likes of Cliff Hengst, Matthew Hughes Boyko, and Matt Wolf are doing the handiwork. More than one contributor to the exhibition's DVD library includes the YouTube mainstay CPDRC Inmates Practice Thriller, yet Hengst's, Boyko's, and Wolf's compilation DVDs also showcase distinctively deranged aesthetics. Hengst gives us Anna Nicole Smith outtakes, Barbra Streisand swearing at a heckler, and an industrial clip he aptly titles Clowns vs. Old People: The Final Battle. Beginning with another YouTube hit, Cobra vs.