MASS Gallery's triumphant return is appropriately celebrated in Scott Gelber's "Doom II: Hell on Earth." The video installation is a study of Internet and gaming culture, pulling gifs, images, and characters derivative of a time spent online during the late Nineties. Glittery text floats amidst a kaleidoscope of car crashes, twirling CD-ROMs, and animations of naked women, a staple of primitive porn sites. The characters of Mortal Kombat weave in and out of scenes, often bopping along to the soundtrack of "Mercy," a track from G.O.O.D. Music led by rapper Kanye West.
"Mercy" plays a crucial role in "Doom II: Hell on Earth." The track is a farce compared to the original talent we saw out of West. His inclusion of other, younger rappers leaves the content straying around a few key points: money, power, and consumption. Ominous samples from Al Pacino's Scarface are intertwined with vocal sampling from the late reggae dub legend Fuzzy Jones. As the track drones on, Gelber projects endless amounts of imagery that properly mimic Kanye's inane rap about opulence.
Gelber's invitation to audiences to "kneel at the altar of The Teenage God" is a perfect thesis for "DOOM II: Hell on Earth." For those not entirely overwhelmed by the constant stream of imagery, the installation is a wonderful study in digital nostalgia. Gelber draws from the perspective of a teenager unleashed on the World Wide Web during its early years. A can of Budweiser pivots to and fro as a monster laughs hysterically next to a gyrating penis. Hilary Duff floats throughout the screen during another scene. Masked ninjas kick and roll around.
Gelber manages to take these blips of digital fodder and edit them into an installation that's like watching the entire Internet explode at once. But it is not the Internet of today. There are no French Bulldog videos or acoustic versions of Top 40 hits. It is an Internet when it still held some anonymity, when technology was too slow to allow for video streaming or the kind of interfaces we take for granted today, when we relied on gifs and manic HTML embedding to create immersive online experiences. Seamlessly, Gelber encourages his audiences to pine for a digital world that is long gone.
The final scenes of "Doom II: Hell on Earth" shows a skeleton cruising across a barren landscape, weaving between Roman columns in a beautiful iridescent convertible. For a moment, it's easy to want to be along for the ride. It's only when you take a step back that you understand the temporality of the scene – and long to reconnect with that careless existence.
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