Inspired by the original


At the entrance to the Smart Museum exhibit Adaptation, bright white walls frame a reading area stocked with copies of Melville's Moby-Dick, Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and other books, as well as a television to show films like François Truffaut’s L’enfant sauvage (The Wild Child). Once inside, the viewer sees these classics transformed into film installations by contemporary artists. For Guy Ben-Ner's Moby Dick (2000)—produced in silent-film format with dialogue subtitles—the artist recruited his young daughter, Elia, to play "Pip, the little black deck-boy" to Ben-Ner's Captain Ahab. In another installation, Arturo Herrera sets a selection of abstract black-and-white images, drawn randomly from a computer database of Herrera's drawings and collages, to the music of Igor Stravinsky's 1923 ballet Les Noces (The Wedding). As the accompanying notes read, "No dance is ever performed exactly the same way twice."

Assistant professor of visual arts Catherine Sullivan's contribution is twofold: her video installation, Triangle of Need, uses four screens with overlapping films and musical scores; one screen shows Sullivan's interpretation of a common e-mail scam in which an African man named Dr. Patrick Obi invites the recipient to act as next of kin for the recently deceased Harold Bowen, with the promise of receiving a portion of Bowen's estate. The film shows the interactions between "Obi," "Bowen," and a character named "Next of Kin." Sullivan also taught a fall 2007 course, ARTV 24103: Practicum on Adaptation, to correspond with the exhibit; her nine students each chose a work to adapt—including René Descartes's Meditations on First Philosophy, scenes from Pride and Prejudice, and letters between Civil War generals Simon Bolivar Buckner and Ulysses S. Grant—and made a 45-minute video that weaved their stories into a cohesive whole. "The final work," Sullivan writes in exhibit notes, "demonstrates both collective and individual interests adapting to one another through collaboration."

Adaptation runs through May 4.


Photo: Guy Ben-Ner as Captain Ahab in Moby Dick (2000).

March 5, 2008