Philadelphia / Reviews / Shows

Stumbled On: Nick Lenker at Moore

It was the last Friday in October and the weather was beautiful, so naturally I decided to take a long walk (rather than an Uber) to center city. While on my way, I stumbled upon Nicholas Lenker’s installation titled Recreation: The First Person on display at Moore College of Art. Seen through large plate glass windows from the sidewalk, the show seemed like the bizarre extension of the science fiction novel I was listening to on audible. After removing my headphones, I took in the eerie electronic soundtrack, emitted by outdoor speakers that extend the immersive experience onto the sidewalk. The contrast of brightly lit white interior walls, against the dim pavement surrounding me, lent the experience an air of voyeuristic pleasure.

Everything about the show is hard-edged. The space is defined by a black and white grid with ceramic objects placed along the wall, like specimens in a report or markers on a timeline. The objects themselves appear to have been broken and reconstructed with angular joints, rather than natural, organic lines. Pixelated graphics play in a thirty-six-minute video from a screen mounted on the ceiling above. The ephemeral imagery is strung together by a semi-narrative sequence of captions that manage to communicate meaning through seemingly contradictory messaging, such as:

  • “It is an illusion that you are alone” and “It is an illusion that you are not alone”
  • or, “Your killing it. (Enthusiastic)” followed by, “Your killing it… (Sorrowful)”

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The entire movie feels like some kind of perverse 90’s role play videogame-meets-David Lynch “dream logic”. As with most video games of this kind Recreation: First Person asks you the viewer to play a role. This sense that you are meant to inhabit a character is reinforced by a drooping husk of skin hanging in the gallery space. The disembodied and flayed animated head that delivers much of the video’s narration is yet another clue. I highly recommend approaching the space at night, as I did, to experience the setting through the barrier of glass.

Recreation: The First Person uses fantasy and familiar imagery to explore the blurring lines between our “real” and “virtual” experiences. There are more touchstones than I can list here linking the physical space to Lenker’s digital space, most notably the ceramic objects that dissolve in a mist of pixels from one world, only to be found reassembled in Moore’s installation space. The grid itself with its protruding block shelves seems to come from the impossible, M.C. Escher-like geometric spaces that our character draws, and then erases, toward the end of the film. Lenker challenges us to engage — with both the screen and the objects made real — at the same time.

NICK LENKER: RECREATION, FIRST PERSON
Saturday, September 16th – Saturday, December 9th
Moore College of Art and Design

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