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Laurent Montaron
Rounded with a Sleep
526 West 26th Street, Room 310, New York, NY
May 25–June 24, 2006

William Shakespeare provides the inspiration for Laurent Montaron’s recent high-definition video, Rounded with a Sleep (2006). The French multimedia artist cribs a line from The Tempest for the title of his four-minute, widescreen video depicting five sullen teenagers seeking to expand their consciousness while wandering across an ordinary mountainside. The connection seems tenuous: rather than embodying a classic drama of betrayal and forgiveness underscored by sleep and dreams, these kids simply meander aimlessly. At one point, a boy explains and executes the “choking game”—a purposeful state of unconsciousness or partial unconsciousness known as self-induced hypocapnia—on another, while the others look on, sharing cigarettes but rarely a glance.

Montaron’s attention to the conventions of video art is strong. Rounded, projected on a large wooden board suspending halfway into the rectangular gallery space, is repeatedly looped. Rather than providing a start-to-finish narrative or showing a work from which one could enter and leave at any point without missing much, Montaron edits the video so that no beginning point exists—the video starts when a viewer enters the room and finishes when the cycle is complete. The result is indeed dreamlike. The artist’s use of cinematic technique, however, is uneven. The jump cuts and shifting points of view during the asphyxiation scene are dramatic, but the slow pans over the teenagers’ disaffected faces and over the flowers and bushes of the landscape seem directionless—gratuitous cinematic formula that doesn’t make the video more complex.

The exhibition include a second video work, Untitled (2006), a Super-8 film transferred to DVD. Montaron slows down the projection speed of the original film—a baffling scene of a man spitting into his hand and then licking it up—to five minutes. Bruit Blanc (2006), a panel with dials, switches, plugs, and wires, housed in wooden box hung on the wall near the entrance, channeled ambient noise to two speakers in the main gallery that provided a soundtrack of sorts to Rounded.

Originally published in Art Notes 10 (2006).