Culture- ART FEATURE- Flash light: Gibson and Recorder's visual vertigo

If you're prone to light-induced seizures, it's probably a good thing you weren't at Vinegar Hill Theater Tuesday, February 20, for film artists Sandra Gibson and Luis Recorder's "Perf.Form." The three-part, dual-projector improvisation incorporated flashing colors, camera jitters, and constantly readjusted focus (not to mention ear-piercing sound that sometimes resembled a monster-sized mosquito) to create a dazzling piece of abstract art.

The seizure-inclined may also want to restrict their viewing of Gibson and Recorder's "Light Works," which inaugurates the University of Virginia's new media gallery, to Gibson's static wall piece, "Untitled (Outline)" and Recorder's relatively tranquil short film, "((()))." The exhibition's three other pieces, like "Perf.Form," gain their impact from the manipulation of raw film stock— scratched, painted, sprayed, and refocused— to create effects veering from gauzy shape-shifting to violent scatter-blasts of light and back again.

In the tradition of Stan Brakhage, Gibson and Recorder's "unfilmed" films are not for those who want their art easy. They challenge, unsettle, and even assault the field of vision. They also require their audience not simply to look but to actively watch and embrace the onslaught of the experience. As Gibson said, following "Perf.Form," "The actor is you. You're the one projecting."

The exhibition's hour-long video program consists of a 35-minute collaboration between the two artists and musician Daniel Menche that reflects Gibson and Recorder's live improvisations, plus three short compositions, one by Recorder and two by Gibson. The most conventionally beautiful piece (although using the adverb "conventionally" anywhere near Gibson and Recorder risks creating an oxymoron) is Recorder's silent "((()))." Here, what appear to be vertical blinds gently rustle, creating lines of light that hypnotically vary in intensity and color as the film progresses.

Gibson's works, on the other hand, are a blitz of frenetic frames that leave the head reeling. Her 10-minute "Blue Light" called forth personal memories of driving through a nighttime blizzard in Colorado and becoming so disoriented by the tiny white flashes in the headlights that I almost careened off the road.

"Light Works" also offers the chance to compare the actual footage of Gibson's "Outline," arranged in eight horizontal strips on the video gallery's exterior wall, with the experience of the film rolling. Serene and luminous while still, when they're screened, the marked-up frames become a rush of agitated color.

Gibson and Recorder's eye-opening art illuminates the outer edges of what film can be.

"Light Works," an exhibition of film art by Sandra Gibson and Luis Recorder, is on view at the University of Virginia Art Museum's new media gallery through March 19. 155 Rugby Road. 924-3592.