Rick Barot

Two Video Installations

The elephant in the white room
is told to play dead, and she falls
to the gray floor, rocking a little
before going completely still,
only to wake again, rocking again
a few times to find momentum
and push herself onto a splayed
position on the floor, her legs
spread like a skirt, and then
the methodical lifting of each leg
so that each gains its footing,
each lifting her a little until she is
fully up, wholly still once more
until some voice in the room
tells her to die again, all of her
wrinkled bulk made blank canvas,
wet stone for an eye, the camera
moving around her as though
she were the center of a carousel
around which the other animals
galloped and leapt up and brayed.
On another screen, one man’s
rapture of grief is told in a face
gone blurry as paint sliding
down a wall, a woman’s crying is
an open mouth black with depth,
a woman prays, her hands knotted
into white roots, while another
man standing behind the others
cannot decide whether a howl or
a laugh is what’s needed in this
moment after they have been told
to think the worst thing they can
remember, the moment then slowed
to sixteen minutes of quiet film,
so that even the thoughtless blink
of an eye takes a few minutes
to satisfy itself, the pixels changing
like cells under a lens, the last
woman an opera of disbelief about
what has come to pass for them
in the dim room, her face a metal
of rage, the voice somewhere
demanding every form of sorrow
from them, and, having been asked,
this is how they had to answer.

Rick Barot
Two Video Installations is from the collection Want (Sarabande Books, 2008).