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Natalie Osborne' video installation ,“I'm a Mess: Finding My Pace" (2009) is similar in that it relies on the medium as a mode of expression. Projected on a blank gallery wall, the film shows Osborne running through the city' landscape in a black dress and high heels, her face obscured by a large, flat mask. The mask appears almost cartoon-ish with full lips and large, watery eyes bent into a permanent expression of quiet discomfort and resignation. A sinister-sounding gong resonates every few seconds, a strange contrast to the frenzied pace of the film. The scenes have been slightly sped up and random frames are missing, making the video appear disjointed and endowing it with a sort of nervous energy, no doubt the feelings that Osborne is trying to express.
The exhibition' most intriguing piece is Caitlin Miller
' ,“Now and Then Times Fifty" (2009, above). Comprised of 50 identical mirrors, each no larger than a fist, the installation lays bare intimate scenes from Miller' imagination. The mirrors are hung equidistant from each other along a blue grid drawn on the gallery wall. Their surfaces are smoky, as if a candle was burned underneath them and stained the glass with soot. Closer inspection reveals that portraits lurk behind these dark shadows; hypersexual photographs of a lone woman on a bed wearing only a corset and underwear peek through the dark surface of the glass. One can only assume it is Miller herself. In some of the photographs, she exudes sensuality, even ecstasy; her parted lips, tousled hair, and gently closed eyes suggest serenity and contentment. Others are uncomfortable scenes of fear in which Miller hugs herself tightly in what looks like self-defense. In the most startling portraits, she is positioned facedown, hands bound behind her back in a sadomasochistic display. And others among these are simply snapshots of normally private occasions.
Miller makes the viewer feel as though he or she has interrupted something; one almost wants to avert their eyes, mutter ,“excuse me," and hurry away. The appeal of ,“Now and Then" lies exactly in this: its frankness. Miller transcends even the vulnerability implicit to nudity, sharing with the viewer her most private moments in a way that feels as intimate as a whisper in the ear. She doesn't just re-tell past events in her life that can be excused or justified. As difficult as revealing the past may seem, it is what goes on inside our heads that makes us who we are, that defines personal identity. She reveals thoughts, anxieties, and desires that may not have even manifested and perhaps never will. Most tellingly, the last mirror on the lower right hand side of the installation is completely clear; the viewer can see his or her own reflection perfectly. Perhaps this is gentle encouragement from Miller to look inward and be just as forthcoming with wants and fears as she is.
Though Strictly Regulated
is supposed to be a break from the rigidity of modern life, it feels just as constricting. The artists seem to be towing some sort of invisible line rather than, as the exhibition promises, purely reacting. However, the irony inherent to this analysis can't be ignored. Though not in the ways the viewer anticipates, the works in Strictly Regulated
do in fact defy the expectations the exhibition sets up. Cerebral instead of communicative, ambiguous as opposed to explicit, Strictly Regulated lacks the rawness one would expect to accompany a topic as personal as this. But whether this is success or failure or neither depends on the viewer. Either way, the art of Strictly Regulated
isn't what one would anticipate, and maybe that' all right. In a world as formulaic as this, one should take a little rebellion wherever it can be found.