Since August, Portlanders Peter Burr and Christopher Doulgeris have zigzagged across the country, stopping at galleries, museums, colleges, and the occasional basement to present the multimedia extravaganza that is Cartune Xprez. Coupling live performance (the duo also make an electro-rock racket as Hooliganship) with screenings of a handpicked selection of animations, loops, and video shorts, Cartune Xprez revels in a kind of finely orchestrated absurdity. But for all the non-sequitur silliness that runs through Cartune Xprez's films or Hooliganship's costume changes, it's always executed with eye-popping dazzle.
The Xprez's fourth and longest tour goes out with a bang on Saturday, celebrating the release of its second DVD compilation with a homecoming party, co-presented by Portland Institute for Contemporary Art at Holocene. In addition to Hooliganship—whose live show features Burr and Doulgeris playing along to and interacting with a prerecorded video projection—the night includes performances by Explode into Colors, TBA Fest vets Mega*Church, and a DJ set by Portland's own E*Rock, whose Explosions loop is included in the new compilation.
The new DVD itself is a helluva lot of fun, boasting a short by the legendary Bruce Bickford as well as Eric Dyer's gorgeous homage to his native Copenhagen. But, to my tastes, the best stuff here is the most latently bizarre. Adrian Freeman's Lich Piercer, for example, creates an inscrutable videogame world where low-tech CGI avatars battle (and occasionally dance with) live actors, clad in fluorescent spandex unitards, masks, and capes. Nodding to Mortal Kombat, early music videos, even home workout tapes, Freeman's film is an arresting (and unequivocally fucked-up) riff on '90s nostalgia.
Video artist Shana Moulton's The Mountain Where Everything Is Upside Down is even better, immersing the viewer in a hallucinatory workout room where the artist's alter-ego—a hypochondriac named Cynthia—achieves ecstatic rapture after trepanning her skull with a magic crystal. As she often does, Moulton scrambles the lexicons of new age spirituality with fitness and beauty fads to comment on mankind's desperate need to put its faith in something. Of course, these shorts—garishly colorful, freewheeling in their use of disparate cultural signifiers—succeed on the level of spectacle. Much of the work here strives for more than flashy visuals, but, in this case, that flash feels very substantial.