Regarding Penelope’s Wake

Michele Smith’s video is her first completed work and runs for a full two hours, which may explain why it’s both intractable and fascinating. Painstakingly handcrafted over 15 months and teeming with ministructures, it’s a silent montage and collage of diverse junk items, and though her found footage includes stag reels, home movies, and various educational films (including Themes From the Odyssey, which occasions her Joycean title), she never allows one to linger on anything long enough to become absorbed in it. Usually her rapid crosscutting and intercutting begins rather mechanically before taking off into delirium, and there are fleeting visual rhymes that keep recurring. (I especially enjoyed the gestural links between sea creatures, which are deftly used in musical patterns, and Homeric characters.) Inevitably one drifts in and out of Smith’s intricate arabesques; as she herself puts it, Form becomes amorphous as time is spun within the individual viewer’s attentions. (JR)

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