The Decay of Fiction | Pat O’Neill

What is the sine quo non of, “The Decay of Fiction?” It is not character analysis, complex plot-driven stories, or an intricate through-line. It is neither speculative, political, biographical, or semi-fiction; it does not aspire to teach, nor is it in search of narrative structure. There is action, but it has been acted upon. There is seemingly no imperious, incontrovertible, or overarching reason for sense-making. Instead, it belies, even refutes the presupposition that actions in linear time make sense through observation and analysis.

So what is the indispensable crux of DOF? Simultaneity and the thrum of silence? Or is it the inexplicable denial of depth of field and depth of focus? Five screens loop, every ten minutes or so, projected onto walls in their dramatic, imposing, seismic, almost Machiavellian way. Figures resembling whirling dervishes, contort, twitch, twist, and decay their imposed selves onto backdrops they’ve never visited. Their jerky, quirky, movements and mannerisms manipulated in post-production.

Evocative, transparent, flickering Fritz Lang types are projected ghost-like and lonely onto gallery walls that begin to resemble, uncannily, the interior of the Ambassador Hotel. We’ve all been there, even if we’ve never set foot in the actual structure. The viewer is transposed from exhibition space to the self-conscious interiority of memory. Helplessly numbed into passive voyeurs we watch our lives unfurl and unravel before our eyes. Frivolous, petulant, unrepentant, unsaved souls march relentlessly to their deaths to burn in perpetuity. You’ll not see this, it’s not even remotely alluded to. But it doesn’t matter, your own nightmares will come true.

The interior of the now demolished Ambassador Hotel hauntingly invites you to impose your narrative desires onto rooms that lay beyond landings that never quite align with the figures that inhabit them. Your mind drifts as you attempt to absorb five separate screens that can only be watched one at a time. Suddenly, three of the five screens align perfectly, momentarily, fleetingly; desperately you find yourself asking, why?

David Foster Wallace pointed out that we are unassailably the center of our lives; to the left of us, to the right of us, in front of us, we perceive the world around us and attempt of make sense of it. The past melds into the present, and the present marches continuously toward an unforeseeable yet projected upon future. Time stands still in novels, films, and memoirs, historicized and concretized only to be revisited, over and over, looped in tortuous continuum for all eternity.

Philip Martin Gallery: September 8 – October 27, 2018

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