A most incisive critique might be encased in the soft bite of quietude. A most bitter response might be delivered devoid of real utterance. And where a trembling blink betrays the fix of a cold fraught gaze, a suppressed fear behind the same might pour forth.
Comprised of and framed within just such forms of near silence, clouded expression and mysterious menace is Ira Eduardovna’s That. There. Then. (through December 2), a polyptych film installation currently on view at MomentaArt. This immersive work, modeled with game-show-spheric fidelity after a Soviet television program called What? Where? When?, transforms the original show’s titular interrogatives into blank demonstratives of time and place, a meaningfully loaded inversion that leaves particular questions of motive, narrative and identity—historicizing or otherwise, mediatically probing or otherwise, autobiographical and self-reflexive or otherwise—rather largely, very stirringly vague. Thus does a moderator’s introduction beckon Family From City T to ponder audience-sourced Question X—the former played by four actors, the latter posed by the artist’s real family—giving way to a formidably suspenseful lull in which gallery visitors themselves, placed in the midst of six questionable points of view distributed among two projections and four monitors, stand by as accomplice-like questioners, contestants and spectators all at once.
Yet just as the scratching sounds of pens produce here no real writing, the chilled collaboration of the hot-seated family yields no properly verbal response. That to which it leads, rather—aside from an unforgettable maternal visage aquake in uncertain woe—is an answer-damning, classically sonorous blow which stokes the moderator’s now audible, now merely subtitled ire and accompanies the families’ overlappingly choreographed departures insinuating frustration and evasion, anger and exile, delusion and deletion, pasts irretrievable.
An ultimate moment, then, of simultaneously subtle and blunt ambiguity—when the melody of demurred critique is dashed out by technological roar, where the faux-lunar lume of a street lamp lights only barely the cover of night—is the terse what with which Eduardovna concludes. So to speak, one might say. Or not.
Above photograph courtesy the artist.