‘Carnelian’ by Lex Brown: A Musical Existential Roller Coaster

As we know, the impending extinction that threatens modern life isn’t usually the subject of popular genres like musical theater – at least it hasn’t been since the Cold War. But in the face of climate change catastrophe, the AI ​​apocalypse, and the possibility of nuclear burning, what could be more relatable than a multidimensional perpetual crisis?

At the Liszt Visual Arts Center, a museum of contemporary art within the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, multimedia and internet culture artist Rex Brown chronicles the spiritual tenor of ambient everyday devastation in a watch. Latest solo exhibition “Carnelian”. As the 60-minute music video rolls out on four billboard-sized screens in one of the museum’s saloon dark spaces, the show takes on the emotional roller coaster of life under the constant threat of demise and social gathering. Ruminate a frayed nerve. song.

A prologue and three-act sci-fi story, Carnelian follows three characters: Oracrysops (Nagy Duwon), Necilia (Siani Berkley), and Bisicles (Maia Drew Flood) in a bunker. It depicts them fighting the only power they mention. as a “boom”. By abstracting the horrors they face, the ambiguity surrounding Boom driving the characters’ angst and the work, Brown makes the viewer a collaborator of the monster and invites us to turn her void into a nightmare of her own. forced to cover up with

At first, I read Carnelian thinking it was about the scrum of articles about the anxiety stemming from rapid advances in artificial intelligence and whether the technology could threaten the survival of humanity. .

Ultimately, however, “Carnelian” settled down as less about a particular threat and more about a sense of loss in the flood of emergency overload. There’s something about the song “Boom” that makes everyone furious. “There is nothing more sacred and abominable than the womb,” “plastic passes for groceries,” “market crashes”—there is even mention of the Hollywood writers’ strike. Is this apocalyptic atmosphere unique to today, or is it, as Necilia sings, “just the latest in the centuries of turmoil we’ve been through”? All three said: “But over the horizon something new is happening. I know it sounds boom

The artfulness of the “carnelian” language is characteristic of Brown’s work. (She also wrote her erotic sci-fi novel My Wet Hot Drone Summer.) Considering the show’s location is her MIT, her wordplay here is even more acute. I’m here. At MIT, I can’t help but think about the role of an elite university in getting educated. Design technology that has a significant impact on existence in the name of lasting progress.

Her lyrics and catchy singalong music (co-written with Samuel Beebe) help subvert the fear that permeates the project, lending a surprisingly familiar feel to the looming doomsday. “Carnelian” Use this catchiness to deal with society’s urge to soothe yourself through cheap social media hits. “You mean scrolling? Try scrolling!” Orachrysops cries, wanting to hear “The Script,” a fictional daily podcast produced by the fictional Omnesia Radio.

Brown himself has a voice cameo as the host of the intriguing “The Script.” “The government is predicting catastrophic losses,” she exclaimed. “What else can we expect? Military exercises and potentially corrosive natural phenomena.”

As if that wasn’t enough, she added: “And what is it that no one wants you to know? It’s about horse tranquilizers!”

This fictional pop-authoritarian podcast and parent company has brought back corporate villains like Brown’s early video work “The Glass Eye” and “Communication,” and Brown has multiple characters resisting Omnisia’s digital forces. is appearing as And by opening “Carnelian” with an auction of boxes bearing the movie’s name (before plunging us into parallel worlds of characters through that portal), Brown said that the digital advertising business was algorithmically personalized. We re-explored how we shape our perception of reality through the digitized feeds. Designed to keep us scrolling.

Braun argues that global cooperation is needed to combat threats such as climate change, nuclear war, and the AI ​​that unlocks civilization. Market trends can’t prevent the worst from happening. Luckily, Carnelian’s looping narrative structure offers endless opportunities. Braun’s protagonists are awakened over and over again by the shock of believing this to be their last day. Implicitly, she asks, is it time for them to meet these challenges collectively with empathy? And when will it be?

Rex Brown: Carnelian

Until July 16, MIT List Visual Arts Center, Building E15, 20 Ames Street, Cambridge, Massachusetts. restart.mit.edu/; 617-253-4680

This review is supported by Critical Minded, an effort to invest in the work of cultural critics from historically underrepresented backgrounds.

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