Friday, July 19, 2024

An installation of “Narcissus Looks Back, and They Love You” by Somerville’s VHF Studio.

VHF Studio, a collective run by Jack Gruman and Logan Puleikis out of 57 Central Street Studios in Somerville, is up to something exciting, bridging nightlife with video installation and toeing the line between “high art” and “entertainment.” 

While not working on their art, Gruman and Puleikis make live video projections for theater, and bounce back and forth between nightlife and video art in their practice. Some of the footage in their recent “Narcissus Looks Back, and They Love You” was captured at a dance party, which  Gruman took primary responsibility for editing and for which Puleikis created a soundscape full of synth and other lush and eerie electronic sounds.

At Behind VA Shadows’ 25/8 narrow artspace in Harvard Square this month, “Narcissus” took the form of a three-channel video on old cathode-ray tube televisions. At the Piano Craft Gallery in Boston’s South End, though, where it will be part of a LGBTQ+ group show called “Queertopia” through July 14, the piece gets room to breathe and expand, Gruman said. VHF will project it onto a back wall and four pieces of voile fabric, surrounding viewers on all sides. Voile is sheer – you can see through to the other side – and the projections can “shine through it,” Puleikis said, “yet hold a crisp, clear projection image.”

During a studio visit with the VHF team in May, I caught a glimpse of the installation. It felt like “Twin Peaks” meets Club Cafe. Beanbag chairs allowed the viewer to relax and stare up in wonder at the visuals. Off to the side, old camcorders recorded CRT screens and played them back at each other; the visual feedback loop created a hall-of-mirrors effect. The space felt lonely and homey all at once.

Artists Janella Mele, Jack Gruman and Logan Puleikis, from left, at Boston’s Piano Craft Gallery on Saturday. (Photo: Logan Puleikis)

Gruman is fascinated by planned obsolescence; a huge part of their practice involves repairing and repurposing old video equipment. And there’s a feeling of being invisible, irrelevant, discarded – yet beautiful and joyous – that many queer people can relate to.

The duo is reinserting an experimental, countercultural ethos into video art, which has felt sanitized since institutions have snapped it up. What could be gayer than breaking the rules?

Share your own 150-word appreciation for a piece of visual art or art happening with photo to [email protected] with the subject line “Behold.”