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.



“Two Video Installations” is from the collection Want (Sarabande Books, 2008).