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By David Finkelstein | November 5, 2008

“Other Turbans” continues Darrin Martin’s series of video shorts about his experiences of hearing loss. This piece covers his recovery from a surgical procedure in which a device was implanted in the back of his skull to improve his hearing.

We see Martin shakily coming out of surgery with an enormous bandage over his head. The images in this video evoke his perceptual difficulties. The footage is constantly overlapped with itself, played at slower frame rates, and keeps dissolving into a cartoon-like abstract composition of the images, with the outlines of the figures becoming streaks of color over a black background.

Martin visits the site of artist Max Neuhaus’ wonderful sound installation, a mysterious wafting of electronic tones which has been emanating from a grating near Times Square in New York since 1977. As the camera circles around him, the images waft in and out of their abstract color outlines, creating a powerful sense of spatial dislocation and the mixing of inner and outer experience.

Martin films the moment when his boyfriend helps him remove the bandage for the first time. As he sees the change in his skull and the implanted device, his boyfriend asks “Honey, are you all right?” “Not really…” replies Martin, sounding very shaken.

In the final sequence, a small inset square shows Martin, wearing his bandage and wandering around under a power line. Behind this image is a close-up of a police siren, with flashing blue and red lights on each side. We hear the siren, quite distorted, mixed with Martin’s breathing. As the inner image continually wanders around the screen, changing size, the overall composition creates a strong impression of spatial ambiguity, of confusion in the relationship between right and left, and of an inner experience which is fighting with perceptual information. As in the other shorts in this series, Martin has expertly assembled images and sounds, and used editing and effects not only to evoke an altered sensory experience, but to create new visual and aural worlds with their own compelling qualities.

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