Wednesday, March 12, 2008

More News From the Girl's Room

I started this post when I was waiting for the cable guy to replace the cable box and the modem. Then I went to the gym, and the gym up here is kinda crappy. There's much to be said for Texas and its wide-open spaces. The machines are really close together--I mean really close together, and there was this fat guy on the machine next to me, and he smelled reallyreallyreally awful, and to make it worse, he kept grazing his arm against me. I almost screamed. Then, when he was done with his workout, instead of getting down off the machine like a normal human being and letting the rest of us breathe, he stood there and read for 15 minutes. Finally, I looked over to see what he was reading, since he hadn't turned the page for a while (how would I know? because he fucking touches me every time he turns the bloody page!) and it turns out that he's been reading an advertisement for handbags out of some newspaper circular.

Why do I bring this up? Well, I think that all 2 of you who read WhinyBabyLand know that I do not have an objective bone in my body, so this experience may well color any and all commentary I have. Maybe not. It's just a warning.

Just thank your lucky stars I'm not the president of the United States or somebody who could do real harm on a simple whim. Oh, wait a second--that is the president of the United States.

Anyway, I saw Shannon Plumb's Together at Sara Meltzer.

Plumb's videos, some of which can be seen on her website, with a slapstick sensibility, are generally pretty hilarious. In Together, which can be viewed on a '70's console from the comfort of a ratty pair of armchairs positioned on an equally ratty rug, Plumb explores the daily life of a couple whose lives were inspired by the artist's grandparents. Shannon Plumb plays both the tired, polyester-clad, constantly struggling wife as well as the rowdy and sometimes mean-spirited husband. She's genius in both roles, but it's the man that makes you laugh the most. Plumb is pretty convincing as the frumpy wife, but she looks nothing like a man in the role of the husband and succeeds only in coming off as a post-adolescent boy with a blonde caterpillar of a mustache. This shortcoming makes the character more than a tad ridiculous, but the artist indulges in the highly comic and makes Grandpa seem both absurd and believable. The video is divided by the days of the week, including Ash Wednesday, in which the wife is trying to pray, whilst the husband does what he can to distract her efforts. The greatest thing about this piece is that Plumb doesn't have any problem turning the narrative on its head to expose what little facade she's created for her characters. In the video's funniest segment, husband and wife sit at the table. Wife subtly annoys husband, and husband returns the favor by playing some sort of air-instrument on the kitchen table. The husband really gets into it, banging his head along to the beat, until Plumb's boy-wig goes flying across the room. The incident humbles him briefly, but as the story moves on to the next day of the week, you see that he's back to his old self.

Shannon Plumb is a funny, perceptive artist, and the silent war between the husband and wife has a lot of familiar aspects to it. For those who've resided with another and have turned around almost violently to find out why the other person insists on making that noise, (and we probably all have) her work, including her past videos, has an undeniable universality. And I don't know if plot or writing can account for all of it. Plumb's a really good actress, but she still seems to look like herself in a stupid wig in every role. There's a sweetness and expressiveness about her face that makes everything relevant and ridiculous at the same time.

I guess the incident mentioned in the beginning didn't make me bitchy as I thought it would. And I can't even smoke in the apartment I'm renting here, and I still didn't get nasty. I must've loved this stuff.