Crash, Bang, Ewwwww

By far the most unsettling installation, the one definitely not for the squeamish, is Lutz Bacher's Huge Uterus, which occupies a corner of one of the galleries. A VCR and a tape deck are mounted on the walls of the corner, while on the floor nearby, lying on its back, is a large video monitor flanked by a pair of small speakers. Now for the clincher: The piece runs a continuous six-hour video loop of surgery to remove noncancerous tumors from the artist's uterus, with the surgeon's eerily calm voice describing the procedure as he cuts and pokes. Entertaining? No. Morbidly fascinating? Yes. Which is how a lot of people characterize the cinema of David Cronenberg.

The piece is complemented by the nearby Embryo by Alexis Rickman, a wall-mounted slab of something called envirotex in which a pair of surgical tongs, a hypodermic needle, a stainless steel tray, and a plastic medical tube are embedded, along with an embryo that looks part human, part animal.

But for me the work that most succinctly translates Cronenberg's preoccupation with the organic and the mechanical into an alternative format is video artist Tony Oursler's Kill or Be.... The setup is minimal: a small video projector linked to a VCR and mounted on one tripod and, a few feet away, another tripod with a plaster cast of a human face mounted on it. The impact, however, is substantial, because Oursler projects live-action footage of a quite animated talking head onto the plaster face. (We hear the artist's unnerving voice, too.)

A lingering question, of course, is whether an exhibition of this sort is really necessary. Shouldn't Cronenberg's films stand on their own, without further amplification from other artists? And shouldn't the works of those other artists also stand on their own? A possible answer is that, in both cases, they already do. But for Cronenberg enthusiasts -- and I'm resolutely one of them -- a better answer is that all of these works resonate off one another, giving us a show that's greater than any of its parts.

"Spectacular Optical" is on display through November 29 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 770 NE 125th St., North Miami, 305-893-6211.

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