“Half Real” is a shimmering, fascinating short by video artist Van McElwee. The visual textures in this piece, which slowly yet constantly shift, are reminiscent of many textures from the natural world: club mosses, lichens, melting frost. The colors, too, are the rich greens and browns, with hints of red and purple, that one sees on rocks in the woods. At times a more regular, grid-like texture appears, and the textures look more like fancy metallic fabrics. The sound texture, which sounds something like a contact mic scraping on paper mixed with the fizz of a soda, creates a feeling of hovering expectancy which perfectly compliments the images, always poised on the edge of resolving into an identifiable landscape.
I’m not sure how exactly McElwee generated these gorgeous, complex textures, but perhaps, as the title implies, it is a subtle enhancement of photographed images, using computer-generated texture maps. Because of the steady, non-developing structure, and the short duration, “Half Real” would work equally well projected in a theater or installed in a museum or gallery. McElwee is inviting us to revel in the tactile sensuousness of light and color itself, to enjoy the actual feeling of visual pleasure, without needing to resolve these sensations into familiar objects.