Danos/Dose/Garthus at Sellout: Virtual Maui, good vibrations, and a Quan Nu smackdown arena


Three simple but substantive works of art will go on display this Friday evening at Sellout Art: a video projection by Jennifer Danos, a wood sculpture constructed—using very unusual methods—by Mitchell Dose, and a game arena by Ben Garthus.

Last Saturday afternoon, Danos and Garthus were at the Northrup King gallery installing their work with the assistance of gallery co-proprietor Ruben Nusz.

As she struggled with an uncooperative DVD player, Danos explained that she sees her piece as a “portal to imagined space.” Having previously created work that explores the history and context of the spaces she’s presented in—for example, using contact paper to take impressions of a studio floor, or showing video of a stream running behind the building—Danos is now stretching further beyond the gallery’s confines. She expects that her Sellout piece will feature video of waves or clouds captured during a recent trip to Maui; a thin strip of video may be projected across the very top of the gallery wall, where the white clouds will blend into the white background.

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Garthus was putting the finishing touches on his piece, a setting for matches of Quan Nu—a simple game of mysterious origin. The game is akin to paper-rock-scissors: two players face one another, standing on platforms constructed by Garthus, and hold their hands out. On each round, each player holds each of his or her hands either open or closed; the player in “control” that round calls out a word corresponding to his or her guess as to the total number of hands that will be open. If the player in control is right twice in a row, he or she scores a point; if not, he or she loses control to his or her opponent. Garthus, whose background is in graphic and game design, has created diagrams illustrating the five possible positions: quan (all hands closed), nu (one hand open), shhh (two hands open), shu (three hands open), and ken (all hands open—for this position, players may substitute a “battle cry” of their own invention). His object in creating the installation, says Garthus, is to give form to an otherwise ephemeral game. “People don’t believe me when I try to teach them Quan Nu,” said Garthus. “They say, ‘Screw you! This isn’t real!'” It is now.

Dose wasn’t present at the gallery, as his piece was complete. It doesn’t look like much—a rickety floor-to-ceiling assembly of thin pieces of wood—but it has quite a history. Dose glued the wood strips together, and he and friends held the strips together with their teeth while the glue dried. (Tooth marks are visible on the wood.) Throughout the process, they hummed together, creating vibrations that they could all feel together. Dose’s work, explained Nusz, involves the creation of unique shared experiences: Dose recently convened a 100-person, 100-course potluck meal.

Danos/Dose/Garthus is the most recent in a series of three-artist shows at Sellout, a gallery that was founded in May by Nusz, John Fleischer, and Scott Stulen. The gallery’s name, said Nusz, is a tongue-in-cheek reference to the fact that it was founded as a self-sustaining for-profit enterprise. Artists who show at the gallery are encouraged to make reasonably-priced work available, even if it’s not the work on display.

Garthus, for example, will be selling screenprinted boards for a game of his invention in which players use laser-cut plastic stencils to draw intersecting lines. “There’s a tension between wanting to win the game,” explained Garthus, “and wanting to create something that looks good.” Patrons will be able to purchase boards from games played by Garthus and his friends or, for a higher price, blank boards with stencil sets so they can play the game for themselves. Photocopied Quan Nu instructions, however, will be available for free.

Jay Gabler (jay@tcdailyplanet.net) is the Daily Planet’s arts editor.

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