Nicking the Never

As the teddy bears sat on the toilets, ferrets were humping away, clearly content. Nearby, pink rapping chickens sat on more toilets, bobbing to the beats they were creating.
Dreams can be bewildering, scary and oddly pleasing, yet I am quite sure I do not envy the fictional girl whose dream described above was shown through animated video on one of seven screens at the Beall Center for Art and Technology. Based on the Tibetan Buddhist Wheel of Existence, ‘Nicking the Never [2004]’ is artist Marina Zurkow’s multipart depiction of the human struggle with aggression, ego, desire, complacence, need and jealousy through the world of a young girl as she ages from 4 to 10.
The seven screens show surreal worlds filled with vibrant colors and are complemented by simple music, one piece selected for each screen befitting the mood of the images. The effect of the images and musical accompaniments reflect the chaos in our own reality and the psychological instability of the main female protagonist.
Similar to the Beall Center’s last exhibit, ‘5 ’til 12,’ ‘Nicking the Never’ gives a different experience with every new visit. The narrative tying together all seven screens’ individual psychological themes will always change as the screen’s underground comic and pop culture cartoon-inspired animation is everchanging as well.
Upon entering the Beall Center, animation of a female protagonist squirming and rotating herself in a small wooden box confronts the viewer. The young girl wears bright red shoes and has a facial expression open to interpretation. Behind her we see a cityscape. What is the significance of the cityscape or the bright red shoes? To find out, viewers must let the other six screens and their own imaginations guide them.
Another screen shows the female protagonist being carried away from a cold industrial landscape by two body-less hands, which drop her high above a complex freeway interchange.
Perhaps the girl’s struggle with the symbols of the city represents her desire to fit into the busy city lifestyle. Or, her falling onto the freeway interchange may mean something entirely different. What might the body-less hands represent in the girl’s imagination and psychological world? The viewer must decide how these images fit with the images seen on the other screens.
Someone viewing the screen just seconds later would see a dove rising above the complex freeway interchange, emerging from below as the girl falls into oblivion.
Through the girl’s own imagination, the viewer is invited into a colorful and offbeat, if slightly depressing, fantasy in which the girl’s psychological history is plotted and her future is predicted based on the seven screens.
As the animations continue, viewers begin to form a story making sense of the girl’s issues.
‘She runs in perpetuity, boxes with herself, falls, hovers and is forced to dance,’ Zurkow explained. ‘There is a puppeted aspect to her behavior, as is appropriate to someone out of control.’
Against a lava lamp-like background using a color scheme of yellow, lime and puke green, the girl fights an invisible foe. Considering the animation seen at the other screens, imaginations should run wild.
One must also wonder why, when the girl is very young and crawling on the floor, a gigantic egg drops on her, disappearing like a large white bubble that has just been popped.
The fictional girl’s life has clearly been difficult, and the beauty of the exhibit is the control the viewer’s imagination has on the interactive art. Even the mood one has entering the exhibit will change the nonlinear narrative, as will switching the order in which one views the seven screens.
And then, of course, there are the rapping chickens and humping ferrets, which immediately make the cost of admission (no charge) worth the visit on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from noon to 5 p.m. and Thursdays through Saturdays from noon to 8 p.m., until May 6.
‘Nicking the Never’ continues the Beall Center’s tradition of bringing strikingly unique art using technology to UC Irvine. Unfortunately though, in the time it takes my brain to accept that the colorful images including a chipmunk’s head, ‘happy’ ferrets, rapping chickens and an applauding teddy bear are really not hallucinations (about 10- 15 minutes), I was through with the exhibit.
Even still, ‘Nicking the Never’ is well worth the brief time it will take out of your day. Instead of wasting time checking your MySpace between classes, do yourself a favor and see this exhibit. It will challenge your imagination, possibly leave you bewildered and I promise your MySpace will be waiting when you return.