By David Finkelstein | November 4, 2009

“Insect Clutched Stick” is a short and appealing abstract video by Garth Simmons. The text of the piece appears to be a random reassembling of phrases cut up from what once was probably a coherent essay, seemingly an essay about language and representation. Phrases of this text have been juxtaposed at random; one hears a male voice reading them, sometimes several voices overlapping. The entire text appears on screen as well, in white rectangles, in handwritten letters. The rectangles often spin and grow. Certain phrases leap out and hint at what the original text must have been about, phrases such as “the importance is transitory” “the responsibility of translation” “a good strong dose of nonsense.” These phrases obviously refer equally well to the viewer’s experience of listening to a text in which most, but not all, of the original meaning is lost because it has been rearranged.

Behind this text, we see wonderful animated images: hand colored overall patterns in primary and pastel colors, with many regular and geometric repetitions of form, often spinning, growing and sliding. These hand drawn patterns sometimes resemble circuit boards, but also quilts or other decorative items.

Simmons’ method here is a video variation on the “cut up” technique of William Burroughs and the Beats. The references to “frayed stitches” in the text seem to refer to things (like the text) that have been pulled apart and put together again somewhat randomly, probably just for the sheer playfulness and interest in seeing what new textures, feelings, and fragments of meaning can be created in this manner. There seem to be references throughout the text to things being destroyed, and then familiar references which are (temporarily) restored. The images are also playful and delightful. Rather than telling a story or communicating an idea, the video uses elements of each to create a sensation of many ideas and feelings combining and coming together in new ways. Simmons has created a salad, using language, color, and pattern, which makes a tasty and refreshing treat for the eyes and ears.

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