Go see Proxistant Vision at SFMCD

When I think of a museum with “craft” in its name, I usually imagine an institution focused on the past. San Francisco’s Museum of Craft and Design is different. Their mission is to “bring you the work of the hand, mind and heart“, and Bull.Miletic’s Proxistant Vision exhibition is a wonderful example of how their open definition of craft helps them find and promote startling new kinds of art.

When I first walked into the gallery space I was underwhelmed. There were three rooms with projectors, but the footage they were showing was nearly monochrome and I didn’t feel much to connect with. I was intrigued by some of the rigs for the projectors though, with polyhedral mirrors and a cart that whirred strangely. I’m glad I had a little patience, because all of the works turned out to have their own life and animation beyond anything I’d seen before.

The embedded video tries to capture my experience of one of the rooms, Ferriscope. The artists describe it as a kinetic video installation, and at its heart is a mirror that can direct the projector output in a full vertical circle, on two walls, the floor, and ceiling, with a speed that can be dizzying. Instead of the view staying static as people ride a wheel, we stay still while what we see goes flying by. It’s very hard to do justice to the impact this has with still images or even video. The effect is confusing but mesmerizing, and it forced me to look in a different way, if that makes sense?

There are two other installations as part of the show, Venetie 11111100110, and Zoom Blue Dot. I won’t spoil the enjoyment by describing too much about their mechanics but they both play with moving and fragmenting video using mirrors and robotics. They aren’t as immediately startling as Ferrriscope, but they drew me in and forced me to look with a fresh eye at familiar scenes. To my mind that’s the best part about all these works, they shook me out of being a passive observer and consumer of images, I was suddenly on unsteady ground with an uncertain viewpoint. You don’t get to stand stroking your chin in front of these installations, you have to engage with the work in a much more active way.

The exhibition is open until March 19th 2023, and I highly recommend you go visit. You won’t be disappointed, though you may be disoriented!

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