The Castle, 2007, 2’30” (Still)
Installation View, The Meadow, 2007, 29’
Installation View, The City (Photo Frame Version), 2007 (ongoing)
The Castle – The Meadow – The City
Roebling Hall, New York
Pop culture is a nightmare from which Bjorn Melhus can’t wake up. The funny, hair-raising videos that this Berlin artist crams with quotations from “Rebel Without a Cause,” “Star Trek,” “The Smurfs" and other sources reflect how mass entertainment has become the metaphysical matrix of modern life.
In his current show’s main video attraction, Mr. Melhus plays Jimmy, an aging adolescent who is on a repetitious nighttime road trip in an old sedan driven by a sinister chauffeur. A spectral hippie played, like the chauffeur and other characters, by Mr. Melhus, looms up at the side of the road. The car stops, and Jimmy gets out to investigate. This happens repeatedly. Each time Jimmy wanders into the forest and meets a different character who says something lifted from an old movie or TV show.
A blue Smurf squeaks, “You’re not afraid, are you?” A hairy yeti advises, “If you can’t think of anything nice to say, then don’t say nuthin’ at all.” A man buried in the earth with only his mouth and nose visible intones, “Come to me, my son.” After each encounter a bemused Jimmy returns to the car and resumes his journey.
You don’t necessarily know where the quotations came from (“Bambi” is one source), but the characters seem to be numinous emissaries from our mass- mediated collective unconscious. What would it mean for Jimmy to escape the endless loop he’s caught in is a question you’d like to see the talented Mr. Melhus answer some day.
(Ken Johnson, New York Times, 21.12.2007)