"Of course in retrospect, I see things differently," explains the titular character in MK Guth's multi-frame video, "Rapunzel." "I should've been more proactive." Played by the artist, Rapunzel sits on a sofa, addressing the viewer in a nonchalant, if somewhat rehearsed, confessional. The effect is that the five-minute monologue plays out like a mid-afternoon talk show hostess laying bare her regrets. But in Guth's reworking of a Grimm's fairy tale, she uses Rapunzel's captivity in the tower as a metaphor for willful helplessness and flawed expectations.
In the video, Rapunzel explains that as she waited to be rescued, she assumed her life would unfold with all the effortless inevitability of a fairy tale. Guth updates this idea by placing a montage of scenes from sitcoms, dramas, and musicals behind Rapunzel. It's so disjointed that it's like watching someone channel surfing. The slow-motion strains of Sigur Rós cross paths with the theme song from Friends, while Kramer bursts into Jerry Seinfeld's apartment one moment, and Uncles Jesse and Joey shoot hoops in an episode of Full House the next. This backdrop is haphazard and bears too little direct relation to Rapunzel's monologue, but at some point, Guth's point becomes evident. The escapist fantasies of television and cinema function in much the same way as fairy tales and, more specifically, the character of Rapunzel, who waits to be magically and romantically whisked away in a storybook ending. It's Guth's way of acknowledging that there are dangerous, real-world consequences to immersing oneself in a realm where even the most insidious problems can be tidily resolved in less than 30 minutes.
Unfortunately, Guth's clever use of the Rapunzel fairy tale breaks down throughout the rest of Growing Stories. The majority of the space is dedicated to an installation of braided hair and clothing scraps, which hang from the gallery's ceiling like a tangle of ropes. This piece seems to nod to Eva Hesse's web-like sculptures, but fails to advance or even complicate her commentary on Rapunzel. Likewise, a series of three underwhelming photographs depicts couples either conjoined by Rapunzel-length braids or playing tug-of-war with such a braid. Where the video used Rapunzel's hair as a kind of symbol for an unrealized connection, here the braid very literally connects people to one another. However, instead of the romantic rescue you might expect, this connection is manifested as some indiscernible struggle. As such, the remainder of Growing Stories bears an inscrutable relation to the video and, like the braided-hair installation, merely dangles like so many loose ends. JOHN MOTLEY