Tongue on Wry?

FAU's "Delicatessen" show circles squeamishness and lurches into profundity

But easily the edgiest dishes in this "Delicatessen" are a handful of works that make such imaginative use of video that you might expect to see them at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami. Early in the show is a sort of trilogy of related pieces, all from 1998, by Nina Katchadourian. For Mended Spiderweb #8 (Fish Patch), the artist mended a portion of a web with an artificial orange substance, then made a Cibachrome photograph of the results. She re-creates the mended web fragment using thread and glue in Fish Patch. And for the single-channel DVD Gift/Gift, she documents what happens when she places cutouts of the letters G, I, F, and T into a spider's web — the spider slowly, methodically rejects its present by cutting the letters loose and discarding them. It's a mesmerizing little performance.

Around the corner, Ellen Harvey works similar wonders with a trio of inextricably connected works for Rose Painting, which starts with a stretch of rose-patterned wallpaper mounted with a delicate, red, line painting of a rose and a video monitor. Completing the loop that links the three works is a video of the artist creating the painting we see next to the monitor — using the back of her hand as a palette and her own blood as "paint."

Jordan Wolfson's Infinite Melancholy (2003) dispenses with narrative accessories altogether and plunges us directly into pure video. While halting, solemn piano music plays on the soundtrack, the camera zooms in and out on what we come to realize are the words CHRISTOPHER REEVE, repeated endlessly in all directions. I found myself waiting anxiously to see if the words ever change (they don't) as the camera meanwhile provides a sort of roller coaster of the senses, with constantly shifting movements that from time to time yield briefly to an all-white screen.

Andrew Scott Ross' Rocks and Rocks and Dreams and Caves II and (top) Ellen Harvey's Rose Painting: Sometimes, blood is just red paint.
Andrew Scott Ross' Rocks and Rocks and Dreams and Caves II and (top) Ellen Harvey's Rose Painting: Sometimes, blood is just red paint.

Another darkened space forms a miniature theater screening three short films — The Sweetest Embrace of All (2004), Bliss & Heaven (2004), and A Vicious Undertow (2007) — by Danish artist Jesper Just. It takes about 25 minutes to take in all three of them, but they're worth altering your schedule to accommodate. The basics of narrative are present here, but Just is more interested in mood and atmosphere and, above all, surrealism. Each story could have been torn from someone's dream life, and A Vicious Undertow, in particular, has the feel of a miniature Ingmar Bergman movie.

There are some who would no doubt argue that a university gallery should be devoted to showcasing the work of the school's students. But the director of FAU's galleries, W. Rod Faulds, has always prided himself on bringing in independently curated exhibitions, like "Delicatessen," of work by contemporary artists both well-known and obscure, then letting students work with the curators. It's a noble, stimulating project that should be encouraged and continued.

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