In the Galleries - Rosa Barba: Desert - CLOSES December 30 at CAM

Rosa Barba: Desert – Performed The Mojave Desert is a template for nostalgic and futuristic imaginings in this survey of Italian-born, Berlin-based artist Rosa Barba's recent work. A full-size 35-millimeter projector shows a short film, The Long Road, onto a two-sided screen that dangles in the center of the museum's performance space. First comes an aerial view of a pale racetrack oval, etched against a distant blue horizon line. Then the camera alights on the track like a spacecraft landing on a lunar surface. In a second gallery, several of the works on display contain movie projectors. Western Round Table, named for a storied 1949 Modernist Art summit in the desert, consists of two 16mm projectors casting harsh, noirish light in one another's direction while eerily emitting odd snippets of classic film scores. Waiting Grounds, a short, silent 16mm film, features grainy images of abandoned desert military sites and other bleak stretches of landscape, as well as assorted manmade debris (shells of cars, piles of tires). Flickers of text are interspersed, suggesting a film script in which a protagonist struggles to make sense of her surroundings. At one point the narrator sees a kite string and imagines it could work as a fuse for a time machine. An image of wind turbines spinning in a field is paired with the phrase, "It's a place of strange echoes and festering silences." This is true of the work, which feels elegantly and disconcertingly out of time, conflating (in its use of vintage footage and outmoded equipment) a sense of an indistinct past and (in its own alien gaze) a possible future. Through December 30 at CAM (Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis), 3750 Washington Boulevard; 314-535-4660 or www.camstl.org. Hours: 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Wed., 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Thu.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun.

 
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