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White Russians, 2008

White Russians is a 4 channel video installation based on a performance done at the house of, and in collaboration with the Akien couple. Invited to create a site specific work in the High Desert as part of the California Biennial and the High Desert Test Sites. Okón decided to work with the residents of the Wonder Valley, a remote desert area with scattered houses on 5 acre lots, dirt roads and no running water.

The piece involves the participation of a group of local residents whom, along with the Akien couple, are presented as one big fictional family, which spectators come and visit throughout the weekend. Visitors are greeted with “White Russians”, Diana Akien’s favorite drink. The actions that take place inside the home (singing of Western songs, a fight where the artist and the guests get kicked-out, etc.) happen every 20 minutes and are the result of collaborative rehearsals Okón had with the "family". In the end it is hard for spectators to distinguish when the "family" is acting and when they are being themselves.

The piece underscores the fears and fantasies urban dwellers often have about rural people who live in the “middle of nowhere.” Four cameras were installed in the living room so that “spectators” became actors, not allowing them to play a passive role. The visit to the home not only emphasizes the voyeuristic gaze of the spectator or art-goer, but also reverts it: the family looks back.



Video Installation.
4 channels.
Cube covered with wood paneling containing:
four 40-inch LCD screens embedded onto each.
wall, speakers and three benches.
Dimensions: 12 x 12 feet.
Duration: 8:52 minutes, loop.

Photograph.
Lightbox with duratrans c-print.
Dimensions: 52.7 x 40 x 5 inches.