Chicago-based artist, Jesse McLean’s new horror-film inspired work, REMOTE, compiles the stock images of horror films drawn from popular culture with her own footage to create a film that playfully and carefully examines the settings and situations we have learned and accepted to be scary. Shots include a looming, Victorian house during a storm, an open path deep in the woods, an abandoned parking garage, and winding wooden stairs going down into a basement – all of these images, even when taken out of context, lead us to imagine an entire scenario. McLean’s film skillfully shows us that even when such shots are not part of a direct narrative, the power of a cultural image is so strong that it can still elicit strong feelings of fear and anxiety. Banal sounds are mixed with expected, clichéd, musical horror tropes which, surprisingly, add a sense of humor, and allow us to see and hear the cunning yet convincing manipulation of film.
McLean has taken full advantage of the small, yet versatile Front Room at the Contemporary Art Museum, presenting viewers with both a film and an installation. Upon walking into the darkened room, there is a strange wooden door in the back corner, leading to nowhere. On one wall are neatly arranged frames for family photographs, but painted black, with nothing in them. The video screen also is placed directly in the center of the room and can be viewed from either side, creating a sense of vulnerability for the viewer – they can see, and be seen, anywhere in the room.
McLean’s short film, REMOTE captures the settings and the shots that decisively signal ”horror film” in a delightfully creepy way, and let us re-think what actually makes us feel scared and what is overdone. McLean’s first solo-museum exhibition, curated by Assistant Curator Kelly Shindler, is another in the strong series of the Front Room’s impressively made films as it is both cutting in subject matter and all-encompassing in experience.
Jesse McLean: REMOTE continues in the Front Room at The Contemporary Art Museum through 18 March, 2012. CAM is located at 3750 Washington Blvd, St. Louis, MO and is open Tues – Sat, 10-5 and Sun, 11-4, and is open late on Thursdays until 8pm.