Arts & Entertainment » Art

RoCo’s sidewalk screening


If your (cautious and masked) fresh-air excursions take you on a stroll in the East End on one of these gorgeously sunny days, you might hear some unexpected sounds when you pass Rochester Contemporary Art Center: loud squelches, splashes, screams, and a political oration.

The spectacle is Rochester Contemporary’s current video exhibition, the varied absurdity of which might provide some curbside catharsis.

The spot of sidewalk in front of 137 East Avenue has become the latest “venue” for viewing art during the pandemic. Through July 13, Rochester Contemporary has moved its current video installation from the back of its gallery space to its big storefront windows, so the cycle of nine videos by four artists is visible — and audible outdoors, thanks to a set of speakers.

On view Wednesdays through Saturdays, from 4 to 6 p.m., Jason Bernagozzi’s “Dissolving The Frontier: New Colorado Video + Performance Art” is a set of single-channel short videos by artists working along the Front Range of Colorado. Bernagozzi, who is based in Colorado, is said to have curated this set of works as a challenge to accepted notions of the American West.

I’m accustomed to viewing RoCo’s video installations in the dark, hushed space within the center. Here, the subtleties of the video art had to compete for my attention with glare and reflections on the windows, traffic sounds, and people on the street stopping-and-chatting a few feet away from me. It wasn’t a huge encumbrance; in fact, I thought viewing the work amid the bustle of the living city added something to the experience, and the sights and sounds of the window installation are an effective draw that could be a clever permanent feature at the center.

Though most of the works were still discernible through distractions, the one that suffered the most from the setting was “They Will Come For You” by a Denver-based artist who goes by the mono-sobriquet Fitzgerald. I could just make out that his monologue — which came as a voiceover paired with a heartbeat as a young black man’s calm countenance confronted the viewer — was about race and justice issues, but even after two listen-throughs, the fine details escaped me.

Still from Kari Treadwell Ruehlen's "Fillings" video set. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Still from Kari Treadwell Ruehlen's "Fillings" video set.
What I could make out, unfortunately, was the loud squelching sounds emitting from Kari Treadwell Ruehlen’s “Fillings” trilogy, which came in three parts, alternating with the other artists’ works. In each, a different pair of pumps filled with a different kind of pie filling sat center-screen in mud, grass, or gravel, awaiting a pair of feet that gingerly strolled up and proceeded to stuff themselves into the shoes, causing a noisy, messy eruption as they wiggled and adjusted into what I can only guess was some semblance of comfort, and strolled off-screen.

The segments are kind of funny in a gross-out way — Ruehlen’s artist statement says that her work tends to “portray a momentary window into beauty through uncanny, altered behavior” — but they’re just not my jam. I don’t love looking at people’s feet in general, even less so with sticky food between their toes. Conversely, my partner John joked that the video set is perfect for foot fetishists who also respond positively to auditory ASMR triggers (I do not).

Still from "Protest Etiquette" by Adán De La Garza. - PHOTO PROVIDED
  • Still from "Protest Etiquette" by Adán De La Garza.
Of the included videos, Ruehlen’s work isn’t alone in its absurdity. You’ll also see a video of a woman casually, carefully, walking into a pond and letting the tiny, floating plants close over the surface behind her, leaving it almost undisturbed (Jenna Maurice’s “Integration with the Pond”); a quick shot of a man picking his path over a rough terrain with a molotov cocktail balanced on his head and another in which the man stands in the wilderness screaming over and over as a white flag burns (Adán De La Garza’s tense “Protest Etiquette” and “Giving myself a reason to scream but not cry,” respectively), and one in which woman walks onto an arid plain, digs a hole, and then nonchalantly bends over and pats the dirt over her own head, seeming quite satisfied (Jenna Maurice again, with a work titled both literally and symbolically, “Interacting With The Lowest Point in North America.”)

Though absurd and at times jarring, the behaviors in most of the videos are particularly well-suited to right now, providing visions of what, perhaps, anyone might like to do: dissolve tracelessly into nature, speak to an audience about political realities, bury your head in the sand, or just unabashedly scream into the void.

Now, about “6x6.”

While the pandemic has cancelled or delayed dozens of anticipated art exhibits and events, RoCo’s annual, massive, community-sourced art show and fundraiser will go on, almost as originally planned.

There has nearly always been an online element to “6x6,” between the online preview and the ability to peruse and purchase unsold works year-round.

Under normal circumstances, part of the fun of the annual exhibit’s opening night is setting your sights on your favorites of the donated artworks (whether during the online preview or at the art center during preview days), and joining the fray of elbows and reaching arms to claim the desired works using previously-purchased yellow dot stickers. This year things will go a bit differently, as the opening night event will take place entirely online.

As in previous years, all the work is for sale, and the center is auctioning off “early buyer” positions 1 through 6, meaning that if you’re a winning bidder you’ll receive an access code allowing you to be one of the first six people to select an artwork during successive time slots on June 4 and 5. Early buyer bidding is open now, and closes on Monday, June 1, at 5 p.m.

The virtual opening event is set for Saturday, June 6, 4 to 10 p.m. There’s still an admission fee — $12 for the general public and $8 for RoCo members ($15 day of, $10 for members) — which can be purchased here. You can preview the thousands of works here, which is the same location you’ll use to enter your purchasing code and make your artwork selection during the opening event.

After the opening night, only RoCo members will have purchasing access all day on Sunday, June 7, and the remaining artworks are available for purchase by the general public on Tuesday, June 9, starting at 10 a.m. (no pre-paid purchase for a code necessary after opening night; you can just go to the site and purchase the works at $20 a piece).

As always, the creators of the 3,400 donated artworks are anonymous until purchasing is complete, but some artists’ styles will be recognizable. The preview site also has a list of the thousands of participating artists, which includes major names in international art.

Rebecca Rafferty is CITY's arts & entertainment editor. She can be reached at