The only way to see Nocturama: from the outside | Art Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The only way to see Nocturama: from the outside 

In Melika Bass's show, we're all watchers in the night

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A screen shot of "Nocturama"

A screen shot of "Nocturama"

The only way to see "Nocturama," Melika Bass's new show on gender and voyeurism, is from the outside looking in. It's situated in a locked building, so that you have to watch it through the windows, and shown only at night, so that when the light from passing cars hits you from behind, you see your own silhouette projected in quick flashes onto what's going on inside.

What's going on inside are three videos, each running on a loop and each presenting an individual of ambiguous gender. One shows its subject gazing into the camera—and, by extension, out the window onto Logan Square. The voyeurism here goes both ways: the subject seems to be standing in foliage, as if peeking in on somebody else. The other two videos are more intimate, depicting things that might go on inside a home. In one, a person faces away from the camera, upper torso disappearing beneath successive layers of a long, gauzy piece of fabric; then the person puts on a men's button-front shirt, as if preparing to go to work. The third video features someone lying down, mouth slightly open, either sleeping or getting fucked—the latter possibility suggested by the way the camera jerks from side to side. This is the only video you can't really see from the sidewalk. You have to stand in some bushes to watch.

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