Review

Head trip in 'the pit': Video and installation art deliver a strange and playful journey

At a time when people seem to be less capable of conversing with more than one person at a time — and to prefer the safety of digital communication — it’s exciting to see “Edible Planets/Soylent Dialogues” at the Pit in Glendale.

Organized by artist Mateo Tannatt, the show consists of six videos that play simultaneously in a darkened gallery, plus a dramatically lighted sculptural installation in “the pit,” the deep, coffin-shaped, concrete-lined hole in the gallery floor, where mechanics once stood to repair cars overhead.

Like a host with an agenda that might not be in your best interests, Tannatt’s untitled piece sets the stage for the other works to converse with one another. Even better, it gets visitors involved. Composed of a Halloween costume, bungee cords, metal grating, a dysfunctional television and green and yellow spotlights, Tannatt’s cartoony crime scene melds playfulness and paranoia. Perception is sharpened.

The videos invite — and require — different types of attentiveness.

Kenneth Tam’s “Sump” gets under your skin, eliciting a queasy, too-close-for-comport sort of voyeuristic intimacy. Jibade-Khalil Huffman’s “Working Title” gets into your head, its looped string of image-less captions coming off an electronic book on the fritz — and all the more unsettling for it.

The two wall-size projections, by Jennifer West and Deanna Erdmann, could be flashbacks to traumas or particularly vivid recollections of nighttime journeys, both interior and exterior, chemically enhanced and perfectly organic.

Amusement and absurdity fuel each other in “The 3rd Glass or a Russian Cigarette” by William Leavitt and “Toilets Not Temples” by David Leonard and Will Benedict. The videos, each about 15 minutes, shine a blinding beam of light on the dark corners of the imagination. Paired, they add up to a whole that is greater and stranger than the sum of its parts.

That’s true of the show as a whole, which makes you think twice about where the truth lies. Complex conversations, with ourselves and others, take off from there.

The Pit, 918 Ruberta Ave., Glendale, (916) 849-2126, through Jan. 31. Open Saturdays and Sundays. www.the-pit.la

Copyright © 2017, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World
66°