The Hale Bopp cult, a UFO religion, a shark man, southern hospitality run amok and a roadie tour song about suicide were all grist for the art mill at Showtel this year. Showtel is a series of art exhibitions and happenings curated by Kara Walker Tome. It is held in guest rooms at Hotel Biba in West Palm Beach, Florida.

I followed the news about Heaven’s Gate or the Hale Bopp cult as it was eventually described by the media years ago. Members killed themselves in a shared delusion. They held the belief that suicide was the way for a soul to reach Jesus who was thought to be in close proximity to a spaceship located adjacent to the rare Hale Bopp comet or something like that. Members of the cult created videos to tell the public that they ended their lives at will. Members body language and speech was eerily synchronous with grounded sane affect. Black and purple triangles and small suitcases were found by examiners at the side of each body in what seemed a ritual killing.

Robb Fladry and Jordi Williams created a remix of that time through chaotic and disorienting sound mixing, a mylar Pop environment and video footage taken from lectures by cult leader Marshall Applewhite. In comparison with the imagery of the Hale Pop suicide Fladry and Williams show the horror and disorientation that is typically associated with the thinking and feelings that propel one in a manic state to commit suicide. The stretched image of the cult leader in a televised lecture with two purple coiled energy saver bare bulbs mounted in lamp bases with what look like implied decorative crosses create at once a wacky satire on the nature of cults and a reminder of the real horror associated with a cult’s abuse of power.

I pulled myself together from the effects of Flandry and Williams artwork Obeisance and stumbled into an environment that can best be described as the lightness of being created by In The Midst of the Fall, hanging paper sculptures, a floor painting and one found in the center of a bed by Margaret Pezalla-Granlund. I took a deep breath and relaxed. Her work became an oasis for me like a tall glass of water on a hot day.

(to be continued-onto Part Three)

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