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A couple of weeks ago we saw Voom, an exhibition of 33 high-definition portraits by Robert Wilson. The entire museum had been transformed for the show: the lights were lowered and the permanent collection covered over by new walls on which plasma screens were hung. Each portrait is like a tableaux vivant only the vivant is recorded video: Johnny Depp, decked out in a mink stole and fedora, sits immeasurably still, but every once in a while blinks or twitches a finger; Willem Dafoe, who plays a puppet at the gates of hell, moves slowly and methodically, frozen in every joint but his knees and elbows. The portraits loop, but they loop such that it is difficult to tell where they begin and end. Each portrait also has its own soundtrack, so at times, to walk through the exhibition is to experience cacophony. Some portraits are affecting, such as a portrait of an auto mechanic that shows the cracked, discolored lines of his hands. Mikhail Baryshnikov’s reminded me explicitly of a recent essay by Louis Menand in which he quotes from the journal of Leo Lerman his observations about Baryshnikov:

His dancing strength comes from his feet—beautifully shaped feet of enormous strength and flexibility. You feel that he could write with his feet.

In Baryshnikov’s portrait, his feet are most compelling: thick, scarred, and calloused, they tell a story of extraordinary use much like the mechanic’s hands.

Other portraits are funny: in one, every time a skunk walks into the frame a Wagnerian march plays; in another, Steve Buschemi taps his foot behind a large, bloody cut of meat. Imagine this portrait of Brad Pitt a hundred times larger, two times slower, and with no beginning or end, and you’ll get a sense of what much of the exhibition is like:

Around the Internets there are image galleries and videos of other portraits. They are worth seeking out.