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Videos explore adolescents' accomplishments

By Lisa Kurzner

For the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 06/06/2008

"Janet Biggs / Tracking Up"

Through July 26. 10 a.m.- 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays. Solomon Projects. 1037 Monroe Drive, Atlanta. 404-875-7100; www.solomonprojects.com

Bottom line: Janet Biggs closes in on some of her favorite subjects, young precision athletes, in an intimate survey of six new works. A strong showing.

Feats of youthful athletic prowess and skill, from synchronized swimming to horsemanship, are the mainstays of Janet Biggs' videos on view at Solomon Projects.

Though Olympic hopefuls provide some of Biggs' content, Beijing is not on the artist's mind. Rather than focus merely on competition, the subjects of these six short works touch upon the most profound quests - self-knowledge, human perfection and failure, desire.

In elegantly edited action sequences, Biggs takes the viewer through the tension and pause of activity, cycling through familiar skills performed by adolescents as they weave between trained and innate behaviors.

Biggs, schooled as a painter, has steadily created video work since the early 1990s, first drawing upon her own youthful passion for horseback riding. This exhibition is a much pared-down installation from her earlier gallery and museum shows, which were often theatrical settings of video projections or outdoor site-specific works.

In the gallery are six video monitors with headphones and seats, beckoning viewers to relate to the work intimately and to more easily read the artist's intentions as she cuts, splices and circles around the six subjects filmed.

"Solipsism Syndrome" (2007) begins with a long pan across the frozen north as two figures traverse a white horizon while haunting music plays. Cut to close-range shots of a polar bear swimming underwater, first passive, gradually becoming more violent. At the crux of the action, now scored with pulsing heartbeats and the sound of water, Biggs cuts to the figure of a swimmer, visually pitted against the bear in struggle until the camera takes us above to the frozen calm again.

Biggs is interested in the young body in training as a metaphor for self-knowledge. When photographing marching cadets at The Citadel ("Performance of Desire," 2007) or bagpipers ("Coming Attraction," 2008), the sequential photography of human and animal movement by Eadweard Muybridge comes to mind as a clinical model.

But Biggs lovingly pulls her viewer close to the tension wrought by seeking perfection. One minute, a young drummer performs like a machine, and in the next, she is cracking gum while unconsciously tapping out rhythms. Through her lush images, Biggs convinces us that these small moments are as wondrous as smashing world records.

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