Danielle Kuhn

I went to the Chelsea galleries. At the Sonnabend Gallery, Matthew Weinstein was presenting some of his work. Part of his exhibition was the video “Chariots of the Gods.” It was behind a black curtain in a room with his paintings. We weren’t even sure if we could walk into the room at first, but we ventured to boldly push the curtain aside. We walk into a dark room with one bench and a large video screen. On the screen there is a video of a metal fish charm hanging from a chain that moves as if it is swimming, but it is not in water. It is in an ornately decorated room. It appears to be moving towards the “camera” which pans backwards through the rooms. As the camera moves we are allowed to see more of the room which the fish is in. It feels as though we are in the same room. The fish talks to us, the audience, and has a female voice with a very soothing accent. I become engaged not only in the ornate charm talking to me and the beautiful room slowly revealed to me as we move around, but also what she is so soothingly discussing with me. She talks about aliens. She talks about aliens telling humans their emotions are insignificant. She brings up the Antikythera Mechanism, an ancient mechanical computer designed to calculate astronomical positions. She implies that ancient humans could not have made such a device without alien blueprints. She also says the aliens left Earth because they found being treated as gods to be embarrassing. They decided to come back later because they still wanted to “just hang.” There is nothing new under the sun. Then she describes a dinner date with a friend. It was a frustrating dinner until a man skipped down a light beam. His smile was infectious and he told her that she was a lucky lady. He tells her that she is lucky because she lives in the shadows of her own dreams and these shadows are so dark that she cannot see what is in front of her. He stops talking and she is brought back into the reality of her dinner date. She tells us to be quiet and close our eyes. We are suddenly aware of the noise of the air conditioning. It is part of our experience with her; she wants us to be comfortable. She signals “on, off, on, off” and with her commands the air conditioning clicks on and off. After a little more discussion she informs us that she has to leave us forever, as those are the rules. And she leaves us with a song. In the room we started in we revisit the paintings. Some are clear to us now that they were taken from the animation.
I thought the video was really great. I was completely immersed into another room in conversation with a metal fish. The fish was beautiful and so was the room. Her voice took me into the story and with the inflexion in her tone I really felt as if she were talking to me. She would raise her voice and I would shrink back as if I were in trouble. She made me feel small and uninformed, but I wasn’t offended. Her stories were a bit vague or imaginative at times. I was constantly trying to comprehend what she was trying to convey as I also tried to fill in the gaps. I was fascinated but felt like I was given snippets that I had to interpret for myself. The fish couldn’t give me any straight answers but she could give me ideas as a starting point. There is so much to appreciate in the animation. The conversation is so intriguing that you want to know more and truly understand. The actresses voice is perfect and very manipulative; you believe her, want to please her, and feel like she has so much to offer you. The scenery is beautiful, and the animation is wonderful; the way the fish glides and moves through the air is so physically correct and gracefully beautiful. The way the camera pans around really pulls you in as if you were in the room, and every time you turn a corner you’re anxiously awaiting to see what else will be revealed to you. It is a very smartly done animation; I would love to watch it over and over. I was told that the animation is clearly inspired by a book of the same name, “Chariots of the Gods.” I will certainly read this book now. I also hope to be able to view some of Matthew Weinstein’s other animations.

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