Review: Disaster represented and re-presented


Beauty, the literary critic Elaine Scarry has written, invokes its own replication, and in so doing, inches us toward a more sensitive, just way of being. What about terror, disaster, catastrophe? Do they, too, perpetuate themselves, fuel their own persistence, and insinuate themselves into the very ethics of our existence?

The spectacle of violence, on every scale, is at the heart of each of Christoph Draeger’s six video works at Young Projects, dating from the late ‘90s to the present. The selection focuses on how disasters are represented, especially in American film, prompting questions about the nature of both Hollywood’s fixation and the audience’s appetite.

Born in Zurich, and based in New York and Vienna, Draeger appropriates existing footage and presents it under new guises, or accompanied by additional, re-staged versions. In the most recent (and least arresting) work, he pairs scenes from feature films of L.A. being destroyed by flood, earthquake and the like with published commentaries of the films read aloud at the actual locations. In a more meditative and moving double-channel piece, Draeger and his young son appear journeying through woods and ruins on one screen, mimicking the post-apocalyptic wanderings of father and son in the film “The Road” on the other.


In “The Last News,” Draeger’s contrived live broadcast of the end of the world, the newscaster can’t keep pace as he narrates disaster-flick footage of the fallen Golden Gate Bridge, exploding Las Vegas hotels (tagline: “All casinos open”), and Harrison Ford as the president boarding Air Force One. The anchor’s brow drips with sweat and his delivery becomes manic. This captivating piece is either dark, brilliant parody, or prophecy.

Young Projects, Pacific Design Center, 8687 Melrose Ave., (323) 377-1102, Through Aug. 22. Open Tuesday through Friday. By appt. Saturday and Monday. Closed Sunday.