'The St. Petersburg Paradox' at Swiss Institute

The St. Petersburg Paradox, 2014 (Courtesy Swiss Institute)

Behind Giovanni Anselmo’s brilliant stone sandwich of live wires and Sarah Ortmeyer’s installation of marble chessboards with ostrich, mallard, quail, obsidian and avocado-colored emu eggs, which show how and how not to do a literal riff on chance, gambling, probability and the mysteries of life, respectively, is a strangely mesmerizing video installation by Tabor Robak, A*. On 11 flat screens of varying sizes hung together in a vertically and horizontally symmetrical, Salvador-Dalí-style explosion, a series of painstakingly computer-generated landscapes pop into dewy, wavering being before being reduced to backgrounds for games like Arkanoid, Marble Madness, or pachinko. Synthetic barnyard animals seen from above fall suddenly down a well, a Frankenstein’s monster looms hugely above bubbling mud puddles, pine trees wave in the snow, googly-eyed aliens crowd together, a robot demon waves his tail in front of scenes of Martian decay, a ball flies purposefully around the screens pretending to bounce, and American flag marbles cast shadows on the background as if it were flat. John Miller’s Labyrinth I is a TV-shaped, acrylic on canvas semi-abstracted close-up, in trippy ’70s colors, of the set of The Price is Right, displayed with motion-sensitive crowd noise above a 60-foot-long patchwork of carpet remnants by Cayetano Ferrer, Remnant Recomposition. In the gallery’s basement plays Ericka Beckman’s 1983 video You the Better, a semi-fond satire of masculine competition and the logic of capitalism that pictures consciousness as an absurd, endless, unwinnable basketball game played against oneself, complete with old-fashioned lace-up football pants, red and white caps, not-quite-smiley faces, a capella chanting, and a whip-cracking cowboy Jesus.