In the late 1980s, Fisher-Price introduced the PXL 2000, a toy video camera that records onto regular audio cassettes and produces a grainy, chunky black-and-white image. Marketed to kids, the camera was quickly adopted by artists, and now, nearly 20 years later, it’s still being used avidly by all kinds of filmmakers. Among the highlights of curator Gerry Fialka’s two-part, 16th annual “PXL This” showcase is Struan Ashby and Roy Parkhurst’s Somnographic Traces of the Otherwise Undocumented Friedkin Institute for Sleep Disorder Research, which offers glimpses into the dream states of several patients as a way to test the aesthetic limits of the camera. In the opening sequence of this fake documentary, a person suffering from hallucinations following a drug overdose witnesses lovely abstract patterns of shimmering light and dark, while another patient, with hydrophilic compulsion, enjoys watery dreams with undulating colors and blurred figures. A patient who has “violent tendencies” endures horrific dreams filled with high-contrast images of worms, bodies and knives, and a melancholic dream featuring birds in chiaroscuro silhouettes and other classically nostalgic images. Ashby and Parkhurst achieve extraordinarily beautiful images using multiple visual styles, and it’s a pleasure to see the PXL camera’s many abilities displayed in one video. In Gestures, L.M. Sado chronicles U.S. involvement in Iraq with short bits of text accompanied by appropriate hand gestures — thumbs up and down, an okay sign, the finger and so on; short and punchy, the piece artfully captures five years of misguided policy in two minutes. In Michael Almereyda’s 1993 Aliens, two video-game-playing boys talk about movies, comparing plots and box-office grosses with alacrity, but also with the dazed double-attention of gamers, so that they become very much like the aliens they describe. It’s a deceptively simple portrait, made far more intriguing by the camera’s ability to abstract the image. While not all the work here is stellar, together they represent Fialka’s dedication to showcasing unheard voices and supporting a truly democratic art form. Sponto Gallery, 7 Dudley Ave., Venice; Sat., Nov. 18, 7 p.m. (first show) & 9 p.m. (second show). (310) 306-7330.
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