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Hilja Keading: The Bonkers Devotional

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Los Angeles-based video artist Hilja Keading has for nearly 20 years explored the role of video as a tool in explicating contemporary subjectivity and the ways in which we perform our own identities. Whether in single channel videos, multi-channel video installations, drawings and even billboards, the award-winning artist, who is on the faculty at the UC Riverside Department of Art, has chiseled away at the gravely schism that seem to divide opposites, between the real and the fabricated, and between nature and culture. "At an early age I sensed that there was a discrepancy between the public version and the private experiences of my life," she has said in the past. "I learned to perform to receive attention, and I was acutely aware of my body; during my adult life, I realized that I did not know the person underneath the performing character."

This realization is less personal revelation than illumination, helping unite a diverse body of work, but more pertinently, it also characterize a new project, the four-channel video installation titled The Bonkers Devotional currently on view at Angles Gallery through December 23.

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The project features a huge roly-poly bear named Bonkers, as well as Keading herself; both inhabit a small room, and the video choreographs a set of exchanges that play with our fantasies and expectations. Can they communicate? What can they share? How might these two bodies - one very large and one rather frail - interact? The playful bear sprawls on a bed and rolls in the sun, but gradually becomes more menacing, and at one point slaps at Keading with a gigantic paw replete with large claws. Trying to discern some ground of the real in the play of fantasy and the unknown is impossible, and indeed, the project's beauty is in showing us how little we know despite everything we know.

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