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February 12th, 2014 RICHARD SPEER | Visual Arts
 

Deville Cohen, ZERO

There are heroes and there are zeros.

visarts_4015THE ENTRYWAY TO DEVILLE COHEN’S INSTALLATION, ZERO
When you enter Disjecta’s main exhibition space, you’re confronted with an 8-foot-high wall wrapping around something you can’t see. It’s dingy and cheap-looking, made out of white screens, construction paper and tacks, its shape smooth in places, angular in others, like a ramshackle gulag. You approach it, walk around it, curious what’s inside. Ominous music and ambient sounds issue from within, mixed with the rustle of people talking. Farther along, still searching for a way in, you begin to suspect you’re being duped—that the whole thing is a feint, some sort of John Cage/Samuel Beckett endurance test with no payoff save the experience of frustration.

Finally, three-quarters of the way around, a shoddy entryway beckons: a wood-and-paper revolving door made to look like an oversized cheese grater. You ease through the thing gingerly, so as not to knock it down. Inside, a maze of screens leads past clothespins strung together like chicken wire, giving way to an alcove where people are watching a projected film. The film, entitled ZERO, is decidedly low-fi, with a plot that involves a fluorescent liquid churning in a blender, a Jell-O mold and a green rubber arm reaching out of a drain, pulling things down into itself. No doubt it would be a riot if you were stoned.

New York-based artist Deville Cohen is the mastermind of all this, such as it is. Yes, the installation’s amateur-chic aesthetic is intentional, but that doesn’t mean it’s not amateur. Cohen says he based ZERO on the 1993-2002 TV series The X-Files, but sadly, the effort is skit material, not satire—a zero-calorie simulacrum of actual aesthetic nutrition. The show would be passable for an undergrad new-media course, but it’s unworthy of Disjecta’s magnificent vaulted hall, which exactly one year ago was home to Chris Fraser’s unspeakably elegant light installation, In Passing. One-note and sophomoric, ZERO would have been more effective as a walled compound nobody could get into.


SEE IT: ZERO is at Disjecta, 8371 N Interstate Ave., 286-9449, through March 2. 

 
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