For artist and musician Cody Critcheloe, The Hole in Soho has been turned into a paint-splattered, bean bag-strewn version of your parents' basement, the perfect setting for his first film, BOY (2009). A super-stylized rock opera set in a cartoon landscape, BOY is the coming of age story of an aspiring rock star in a mid-Western town, and of course, mom just doesn't understand. It's a story that's been told before, but in Critcheloe's hands, it's a postmodern patchwork of music videos, interviews, and hilariously self-aware dialogue that results in a genuinely entertaining commentary on gender and sexuality. "I ain't a sissy, I'm just free," he growls after being chastised by his overbearing mother, played by a male actor in drag. He enacts his revenge on her later in the film, after becoming involved with the "Woman," a bespectacled and enigmatic character who proves to be his downfall.
Fast-paced and disjointed, but totally watchable, Critcheloe's film is purposefully built on a mish-mash of cultural signifiers from bygone eras, combining them in a tongue-in-cheek sort of way that positively reeks of all the clichés of teenage rebellion. But Critcheloe's persona is so oddly endearing, you'll laugh and relate before you roll your eyes. The music in the film was performed by his band SSION (pronounced "shun"), a group whose sound changes with each song. The result is a catalog that resembles the same sort of cultural mosaic that the film embodies. The songs that SSION performs range from disco-inspired dance tracks ("Street Jizz"), to aggressive punk anthems ("Day Job")—whatever the moment in the film calls for and ultimately, whatever Critcheloe feels like playing.
The show itself follows this "little bit of everything" approach too, representing Critcheloe's friends and colleagues Peggy Noland and Jamie Warren. Noland, a clothing designer, is represented with a rack of clothes hung with leggings and bright orange crop tops, crammed into an alcove and surrounded by bourgeois suburban detritus like boxes of organic frozen dinners, six packs of Stella Artois, and crumpled pages of Real Simple Magazine, etc. Warren, a photographer, has hundreds of her images along the showroom wall. Each image has the same sort of candid, voyeuristic feel of the "party photo," a genre that has become infamous and ubiquitous in the age of the internet. Her larger self-portraits are much more interesting as they play with ideas of identity and appearance; Warren photographs herself in bright and angry red face paint while she smiles sweetly, or surrounded by grotesque Halloween masks.
But the most jarring work in the room is a quiet sculpture in the corner—a house plant embedded with a mechanical hand. The hand clutches a spray paint can, and in its own jerky, mechanized way tags the gallery wall over and over again, eloquently echoing the commodified gestures of rebellion utilized by Critcheloe in the other room.
(photo credit: The Hole, Cody Critcheloe)