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Review: 'Fireworks' sizzle in Isolation

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 31, 2011 - Isolation Room is presenting "Fireworks," a video by the British collaborators Nick Crowe and Ian Rawlinson, a work perfectly suited for the venue's tight quarters.

Running on a loop, the projected video depicts the interior of a darkened, cavernous warehouse, fitted out with an array of fireworks launchers. Before long, the room is ablaze with arcing lights and noisy bursts of flame. The explosions carry on, peter out, then start up again, and you can't take your eyes off them.

The black-and-white footage distills the spectacle to its essence: the undeniable visual appeal of things exploding. It's also reminiscent of wartime footage of nighttime bombing runs, in that it affords us a privileged view at a safe remove and excuses us from dealing with the messy aftermath.

"Fireworks" is usually presented on a more cinematic scale; in the tiny Isolation Room, the projection is sized down, making for some interesting visual ambiguities, and a mini-lesson in how exhibition conditions determine one's understanding of art. The latter is also the concept behind Isolation Room itself, an enclosed space designed by artist/curators Daniel McGrath and Dana Turkovic as a concentrated environment in which to encounter a single work of art.

McGrath and Turkovic are clearly onto something -- Isolation Room has gotten lots of good press of late, and is even being featured in a January exhibition at New York's Hunter College. The two deserve just as much credit for their curatorial choices -- works like "Fireworks," which you actually want to be alone in a room with.

Ivy Cooper, a professor at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, is the Beacon art critic. 

Ivy Cooper
Ivy Cooper is the Beacon visual arts reviewer and a professor of art at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

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