Sometimes an idea is too big for one medium. Such is the case with Rabi’s first major show after his time in street art collective Cyrcle, as _gen+esc inaugurates Nomad Gallery – Los Angeles’ newest contemporary art house and itself a hybrid form. As the artist (as well as the gallery’s formerly crypto-based program) remixes realities, materials, narratives, and forms of attention, he also explores the expressive power of filmmaking alongside images and objects to tell a story about identity and creativity in an increasingly confusing world.
In the early months of the pandemic, Rabi noticed, as we all did, that it was more than external circumstances and the familiar rhythms of life that were changing – artists especially, but truthfully all humans, found themselves questioning the very foundations of their identity, inspirations and purpose. And he decided to make some films about it. Episodic and infinitely expandable, the shorts in _gen+esc (generation+escape) are based on interviews with a range of cultural figures – mostly artists, but also chefs, prize-fighters, and others – in which the subjects speak candidly about the real-time wrestling with big questions like who am I and what am I doing here, and the various ways in which they doggedly pursue the answers.
Like the prompts, the films themselves are formed through a deceptively simple premise – the subjects donned green-screen suits so that in the final, their faces and figures are replaced by bodies built of fast-paced spliced editing that tracks and augments the emotion in their voices and speeches, yet they are seen moving in their private home and studio spaces. The flickering surrealism embodies how our identities are literally built of the innumerable pieces of information we take in every day, seeming to offer a glimpse of the rapid-fire neurology that makes consciousness possible and its exciting, overloaded modernity. By contrast, their words are often meditative and intimate – in films between 4-7 minutes, encapsulating what was happening with them at that time in ways that speak to universal reckonings.
At the moment there are 11 of these films though there will doubtless be more – but as hinted, the exhibition goes far beyond their presentations. Much of the gallery is covered in the same green-screen paint, transforming the space both inside and out into a broadly interactive experimental theater in its own right, creating direct bodily involvement in a disembodied realm and offering another point of entry into the creation of the films. Less expected is the presence of a series of unique fired clay sculptures of objects culled from the films – an axe, a skull, a flip phone, a crown, a sex toy – which are also green-screened in an unexpected amalgamation of ancient artifact and post-digital energies that merge physical and cognitive textures with wit and whimsy and gets at the hybrid heart of the project. This is the same energy behind the web3 to brick and mortar journey that sees the Nomad Blvd PFP collection transform into the Nomad Gallery in WeHo.
Featuring interviews with artists Lauren YS, Drew Merritt, Audrey Kawasaki, Faith XLVII, Devin Liston (Rabi’s former Cyrcle partner), Rabi himself, and many others, Generation Escape isn’t really about a new generation. It’s about all of us, the ones that are already here, and how we plan to reinvent ourselves for the newly arrived future – and it’s also about what art-making mediums at our disposal can be tasked with expressing that reinvention.
_gen+esc opens Thursday, September 15, with a public reception from 8-11pm at 8748 Holloway Dr., West Hollywood, and continues through October 15. For more information visit nomadblvd.io.
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