Film Collage

Johan Grimonprez's stunning work screens at the Blaffer Museum.

There's a lot of other interesting work in the show, including Maybe the Sky Is Really Green and We're Just Colorblind (1995-2011), a collection of YouTube and other  Web videos selected by the artist. Billed as a kind of "sketchbook," the videos offer intriguing insight into Grimonprez's working process and sensibilities.

It opens with a 1959 commercial for an RCA remote control, which is followed by a 1963 ad for Swanson TV Dinners and a 1952 UFO press conference at the Pentagon. The Twilight Zone intro and Ronald Reagan's speech to the UN General Assembly also made the cut. A shopping channel spoof, in which AK-47s are cheerfully touted, is priceless as is Ali G's interview of James Baker and Banksy's "The Simpson's" Sweatshop. Donald Rumsfeld's 2002 statement on WMD and the Yes Men's Dow Bhopal spoof are also in the lineup. The artist is leading you through your own history and culture — and into his critique of it.

Showing film in a gallery space is always hard, but the Blaffer made an extra effort to present Grimonprez's work well. In an attempt to improve the gallery's acoustics, Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y and Double Take have their own carpeted screening rooms. The sound is pretty good inside; it's not cinema quality, but it's clear. And there isn't much bleed-over from other videos in the space.

Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y features footage of Palestinian hijacker Leila Khaled.
Johan Grimonprez and Rony Vissers
Dial H-I-S-T-O-R-Y features footage of Palestinian hijacker Leila Khaled.

Location Info


Blaffer Art Museum

1300 Holman St.
Houston, TX 77004

Category: Museums

Region: Third Ward


"Johan Grimonprez: It's a Poor Sort of Memory that Only Works Backwards"

Through April 2.

Blaffer Art Museum, University of Houston, 120 Fine Arts Building, 713-743-9521.

The biggest problem with the films' presentation is the bench seating. Now, that may sound really petty, but these are feature-length films. Can you imagine going to the movies and sitting on a slatted bench the entire time? But the Blaffer approach is no different from just about every other contemporary art venue. (God bless DiverseWorks and their rows of cheap, comfy video rockers.) I realize it's unrealistic to set up theater seating for a temporary exhibition, but can we acknowledge the ascetic attitude that pervades the art world? Viewing films in a gallery shouldn't feel like an act of penance.

Grimonprez is making provocative art that is both informative and entertaining.  "It's a Poor Sort of Memory" is a great show that requires — and deserves — a significant time commitment. Just bring a pillow.

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