Thinking Inside the H Box at OCMA

Thinking Inside the Box
Highlights of the short films on display in H Box, the portable movie theater now housed at OCMA

If you’re not obscenely rich, you may not know that Hermès makes $10,000 purses and $2,300 wallets. While that little tidbit of information may be off-putting to the more class-conscious among us, let’s give them their due and applaud them for putting some of their profits into artists’ pockets.

The French luxury house is touring H Box, a collapsible aluminum-and-acrylic movie theater designed by artist/architect Didier Fiuza Faustino that travels to exhibition sites around the world, presenting a series of commissioned video shorts from a bevy of international artists. About half of the 10 videos making their U.S. debut at the Orange County Museum of Art are worth your time, but since the shorts are on a 90-minute loop, the good are evenly programmed with the . . . less good. If you choose to attend, though, OCMA’s concurrently running “Moving Image” exhibition (see “Keep It Moving,” April 24) offers plenty to distract you during the bad, as you time your ins and outs to not miss the first-rate stuff:

Cliff Evans’ animated Citizen:The Wolf and Nanny starts with a naked family cavorting amid a bright-green countryside. Just as your mind registers “Teletubby landscape,” the camera pulls back, and spacewomen fly into the air with robotic admonitions: “Smile. Angry. Sad. Happy.” Wolves enter and exit as missiles fly overhead, jogging mothers run down the street pushing baby strollers, corporate logos fill the air, and “Going Out of Business” signs pop up (along with more spacewomen and wolves). The entire thing is ebulliently off-kilter, the smiling faces of the cartoon populace an uneasy contrast to the snarling dogs, jackbooted police and Orwellian surveillance cameras.

Yael Bartana’s inspirational Mary-Koszmary has a young Polish man addressing a deserted stadium overgrown with weeds, pleading to the Polish Jews who left after their treatment in World War II to come back home. The children applauding his speech are dressed in totalitarian garb, but that doesn’t indicate some deadly, unspoken ruse. It’s merely an acknowledgement of the country’s anti-Semitic past and a conciliatory desire to stop that hatred at childhood.

I appreciated the simplicity of Shahryar Nashat’s meditation on labor, Slab,and wastotally absorbedin long takes of concrete pouring and handsome workmen smoothing it out with trowels. The final image of the long, gray block being carried along by a hook and grapple was very 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Matthew Buckingham’s We Knew About the Cave—about the discovery of the Lascaux cave in France—features a more interesting story than the mostly black-and-white images filling the screen. Because the caves are closed to the public (its prehistoric paintings were eroding from exposure to the moisture in human breath), Buckingham was certainly working within limitations, but it would have been nice to see more than the single cave painting he showed. Memorable anecdote about Picasso’s visit notwithstanding, this could have been so much more.

Don’t miss Cao Fei’s The Birth of RMB City. Computer eye candy for The Sims generation, watch as a whacked-out city is built from the ground up, and then, true to the message written on one of its billboards—“A fleeting absolute we are”—destroys itself.

Alice Anderson’s lesbian genderfuck Bluebeard has the best production values and is lovely to look at, but the wooden acting undercuts what’s basically a 14-minute art film about the fatal consequences of cutting your ties to your mother.

Kota Ezawa’s 3D Diorama doesn’t use the gimmick to much effect, but its cardboard cut-out look is reminiscent of early South Park and features cool song clips from the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Sebastian Diaz-Morales’ astounding filmic collage Oracle packs the most imagery into its run time:A plastic bagis pushed around by the wind in an American Beauty momentas tadpole kites fly above skyscrapers, men balance precariously on a neon Coca-Cola sign, women dance and clouds spread themselves out along the horizon like they’re painted into the sky, all to the aural accompaniment of ocean waves crashing. It’s as visually opulent as the old America the Beautiful film at Disneyland, but it’s cooler because its footage is from all over the world . . . and you don’t have to stand up to watch it.

Dora Garcia’s Film (Hotel Wolfers) involves long takes of a deserted Belgian hotel while the narrator rambles on about a short film playwright Samuel Beckett directed starring Buster Keaton. I have a bootleg of the original short, but it has been years since I’ve seen it, and it took me most of the 11-minute running time of Garcia’s film to figure out what her point was.

Su-Mei Tse’s Open Score wears out its welcome fairly quickly as we watch a woman play squash from different angles in a computer-generated environment. As she does the same thing throughout, her environment changes, even if she doesn’t. It’s 10 minutes long, but it makes its point in two.

H Box at Orange County Museum of Art, 850 San Clemente Dr., Newport Beach, (949) 759-1122; www.ocma.net. Open Wed.-Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thurs., 11 a.m.-8 p.m. Through Sept. 27. $8-$10.

 
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