People prone to lucid dreams (or acid flashbacks) might have found themselves transported to a familiar state in “Synthesizers,” an exhibition of seven large-scale pigment prints and a film by Chicago-born Takeshi Murata. Resembling photographs, but made using computer programs, the prints depict interior spaces in a hyperrealistic style. Either digitally rendered or appropriated from stock images the artist found online, the objects shown in the prints evoke the remains of a long night of partying—a stack of prescription pills, a half-empty plastic cup of white wine, a fallen chessboard. Lighting effects, such as shadows cast from unseen window blinds, enhance the illusionistic quality of these scenes, which have an uncanniness to them-like sets from a movie you saw but only vaguely remember, or images from a dream.
Art historical echoes occur throughout. In Bernie’s (2012), a bike set against a Greek column has bent wheels that recall Dalí’s wilting clocks. In Baby (2012), the pieces of a broken guitar are superimposed against a gray staircase that seems plucked from a painting by de Chirico. A sheet of paper with a large red circle hangs on a wall in Electrolyte (2012), conjuring Suprematism.
The film, Night Moves (2012), six minutes long and made in collaboration with the artist Billy Grant, ran on a loop on a flat-screen television. It opens with a shot of a model of Murata’s studio building in Saugerties, N.Y., spinning in a digital void, like Dorothy’s house caught in the tornado in The Wizard of Oz. The view then transitions to the studio’s interior, rendered in three dimensions by combining scanned photographs of the space. Objects lifted from the scans and animated on the computer—a pink nightgown, a desk chair, a tripod—pulsate, sway, liquefy and occasionally start maniacally laughing. Continually shattering into prismatic shards that reassemble into unified forms, the environment finally dissolves into a flurry of fragments. Overall, the video suggests apocalyptic footage from a parallel world.
Murata is a pioneer in the field of “glitch art,” an esthetic of computer faults characterized by techniques such as “data moshing,” which exploits video compression to produce distorted pictures. His past works include experimental video pieces like Melter 2 (2003)-a hallucinogenic, morphing sea of color-as well as story-based animations, such as I, Popeye (2010), a postmodern tale starring the spinach-eating sailor. Night Moves is a sophisticated amalgam of these two facets of his work, the abstract and the narrative. As the film progresses, and the figurative elements continue to break apart into shifting patterns, it proves impossible to piece together what is happening on-screen. As with the prints, one wants to identify a reference point in the space, but is increasingly frustrated and haunted by the feeling of having been unmoored from reality.
Photo: Takeshi Murata: Night Moves, 2012, Pro REs digital video, 6-minute loop; at Salon 94