Barry Anderson's "Janus Restraint" reviewed in the KC Star

Barry Anderson’s ‘Janus Restraint’ explores duality, change and fateJune 12BY NEIL THRUNSpecial to The StarhyOhy.St.81[1] Barry Anderson’s “The Janus Restraint: The Ascension” at the Studios Inc Exhibition Space is an exploration of the Roman god of beginnings and ends.The well-known Kansas City artist created some of the work in the show during a Nes Artist Residency in Skagaströnd, Iceland, where he made films of the country’s amazing landscapes, mountains and oceans. Through a variety of video installation techniques, Anderson explores ideas of duality and fate, creating a compelling narrative and installation experience. His Iceland trip was funded in part by an ArtsKC Inspiration grant.After entering the gallery space, the first video you see is titled “Finnean.” The camera focuses on a boy’s face, and other videos of a second child are overlaid on top of the first film. The effect is that of a latticework of different videos scrolling on top of one another, creating a new face that is neither one boy nor the other.The many videos and sculptures in this exhibition address concepts of duality, change and fate.On one wall, a baseball bat is suspended against a cracked mirror, giving the impression that the bat and its reflection are a single object piercing a hole in the wall. There are films of ice melting and large videos of mountains and oceans.The largest video projection, titled “Fragments of Space (ST2)” is a three-dimensional rendering of some enormous geometric chasm, lined with what seem like neon green ladders.There are also still photographs of the boys. In one they coyly hide behind a large tree, and in another they wear old Frankenstein masks. The diverse mediums unite in a general sense of foreboding.Janus, the Roman god of doors, gates and crossroads, is often depicted with two faces, one looking backward and the other looking forward. Janus’ double face allows him to look both ways, in space but also in time.To ancient Romans, and many other religions, the past and future are not as divided as we see them today. Our general sense of scientific realism leads us to see the past as complete and the future as undetermined. To an ancient Roman, the past and future were determined together in a shared purpose. We still see evidence of this thinking today in astrology and horoscopes, where the star sign of your birth is used to determine your fortune for the coming days.Further into the exhibition, another video titled “Entries” stands apart from the rest. Much more narrative than the other films in the exhibition, “Entries” moves through scenes of the two young boys playing in the woods. The boys dig up thick, muddy clay with dead tree limbs and pummel a dead stump with a baseball bat.In one slow-motion scene, one of them swings his baseball bat furiously, as if it were a sword in some martial arts routine. As the boy’s motions become extreme and less controlled, he breaks a slight sweat and takes on a red tone.Interspersed with footage of the boys and their games are scenes of mountains, icy oceans and a strange maze delineated by boulders. Near the end of the film, one boy slowly crawls toward an enormous dead hollow log. Climbing up to the gaping, black entrance, he cautiously crawls inside. The camera cuts to a dark space where the boy is sleeping, his eyes darting wildly beneath his eyelids.The twin boys represent Janus but also the Greek myth of the Gemini, the twin boys Castor and Pollux. It should be noted that the soundtrack for “Entries” is a song titled “Pollux’s Tears” by Gemini Revolution, a Kansas City-based band.In the Gemini myth, one twin is born from a mortal father while the other is born of the deity Zeus. One mortal child resides among the dead and another immortal child lives among the gods. As the boy passes into the log, it isn’t clear whether he is Castor being entombed or Pollux dreaming among the gods.Yet “Janus Restraint” is more than an academic investigation of antique myths. We should reconsider ontological concepts like duality and compare them against our largely materialist, scientific views.We live in a culture of singularity; we expunge the bad and hold up the good. Against predestination, we paradoxically see ourselves as individuals who can “choose their own destinies.” It is said that in times of war, the doors to the temple of Janus were kept open and that in times of peace they were closed.The ancient Romans had a way of seeing the world in which war and peace, the past and future, life and death, were all explicitly conjoined. While this kind of thinking might rationalize atrocities like warfare, it also gave the Romans a shared cultural means to address the darker side of life.Today, we attempt to expunge death and warfare. Our strategy is to avoid it at all costs, yet we live in a world of both unprecedented peace and extreme mass violence. The Romans understood this on a metaphysical level, that an increase in good was coupled with a symmetrical increase in evil. Anderson’s “Janus Restraint” is a great chance to re-examine this type of dualistic thinking, through stunning and intelligent artworks.Read more here: