Ola Pehrson 03.12.07
AUTHOR: MICOL HEBRON 02.24.07-05.27.07 Hammer Museum
It is unintentionally fitting that Ola Pehrson’s exhibition should open within two weeks of Jean Baudrillard’s death. Pehrson’s video Hunt for the Unabomber, 2005, is a scene-by-scene remake of a thirty-minute A&E documentary about Ted Kaczynski, the infamous Unabomber. The forensic re-creation is unnervingly uncanny, perhaps because the origin and the depth of the simulacrum are not immediately clear. Featuring black-and-white images accessorized with pirated sound (music, as well as voices), the video explores the story of Kaczynski’s eighteen-year reign of domestic terrorism; only upon further inspection of the objects in an accompanying installation can one untangle Pehrson’s technique. Three rows of shelves display well-crafted props: Plasticine busts of FBI investigators and of Kaczynski’s victims, steel-wool trees in front of shoebox buildings, water-bottle airplanes with cardboard wings, a courtroom diorama with soda-cracker seats. Pehrson compulsively assembled readymade detritus into sculptural tableaux that perform anamorphic acrobatics: He converted video images into sculptures, then seamlessly reinserted them into two-dimensional form via his video camera. Pehrson plays every character in his hyperreal documentary, furthering the viewer’s sense of perceptual displacement. Kaczynski’s manifesto was notoriously antitechnology, enumerating societal ills in an extremist version of Benjamin’s “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” Pehrson has the last word, however, by countering Kaczynski’s malicious use of the low-tech by cleverly using his own handicrafts to produce not a destructive bomb, but rather a marvelous work of art.