Three installation artists with shows in Williamsburg right now have created spaces that are at once generic and highly specific. The effect of walking into their exhibitions is not unlike the Funhouse at a county fair, where the tweaking and subversion of every rule of architecture and design will make you hyper-aware of every "normal" space you visit for the following week.
The most extreme dislocation comes when walking into John Bjerklie's surreal TV installation at Parker's Box. It's like a DIY version of Nam June Paik's televisual landscapes, though Bjerklie's vision is decidedly darker, more jagged and substitutes uncanniness for playfulness. Crafted out of plywood scraps and duct tape, the effect is somewhere between a forest of nightmares, subconscious cave and post-apocalyptic wasteland. Throughout, closed-circuit monitors show the artist's performances and us, the bewildered viewer, exploring this strange new space.
At Slate Gallery, Chicago- and New York-based artist Bernard Williams takes an opposite approach, making the familiar strange with his black painted and studded sculptures and wall mountings. His rhinestone-covered primitive masks, for instance, not only underline Modern painters like Picasso's enormous debt to African art, but also come off like a postcolonial revision of Damien Hirst's diamond-encrusted skull, a new take on that ode to overdosing on conspicuous consumption. Meanwhile a wall-sized installation of black cutouts and signs referring to shameful passages in American history is deceptively simple. Williams seems to be asking what kinds of homes and nations we can expect to build on such unbalanced foundations.