As some artists know and others clearly don’t, the precise moment you enter a video work’s orbit determines how likely it is you’ll stay. Show up in the middle of an orgy, say — which you will, if you arrive around the 45-minute mark of Guido van der Werve’s Nummer zestien, the present moment, which screens on the hour at Luhring Augustine — and you’re going to want to know how the fuck you got there.
Then again, as you’ll discover should you turn up earlier on, it takes nearly the whole of its running time for van der Werve’s languorous, three-channel video work, screening on a trio of walls in a darkened gallery, to come full circle to this orgasmic climax. In the interval, we watch footage shot on the same closed set — a black box with a softly padded floor — where actors pantomime three versions of a life cycle: awakening, some eating and drinking, some fucking, some meditating, and finally all lying prone as if sleeping or dead. To our left, about 25 nude men and women, many of them middle- to old-aged, sit and stand, drink and eat, some with their breasts at their pubes and their balls at their knees. On the wall opposite, equal numbers of young folk come together in pairs, ultimately engaging in acrobatic, sometimes mechanistic-looking hookups. At the work’s center, black-clad figures perform rituals of meditative movement. Van der Werve, 38, gives us this menagerie but not much else, and it’s up to us to make sense of what we’re watching.
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