‘Trisha Baga: Plymouth Rock 2’ at the Whitney Museum of American Art

After a year in which New York museums focused largely on grand historical shows and star-studded blockbusters, the Whitney offers up a welcome outlier: a modestly scaled show of a promising young talent. From Trisha Baga, a New York-based artist who is 27, comes Plymouth Rock 2 (2012), a 30-minute video and mixed-media installation that is one of the most vitally new-feeling artworks on view in the city right now.

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Ms. Baga has placed a variety of small objects—a water bottle, Styrofoam constructions, painted Coca-Cola cans, a white boom box—around the space and set up two video projectors, one near the middle of the gallery, one at the rear. Their projections overlap and occasionally catch forms in the room, casting shadows on the walls, on which hang a painting, some pieces of paper and a menu for an East Village restaurant called the China Star.

From this humble construction, a very loose narrative emerges involving Plymouth Rock, the location where Pilgrims supposedly landed in Massachusetts in 1620. Beginning under the sea with a jellyfish, Ms. Baga takes us on a cut-and-paste ride through dozens of found and self-shot video clips. A hand sometimes appears onscreen to flip from one video to another, as one might on an iPad, the real seeping into the digital. Bits of text occasionally appear on screen (“My body wasn’t made for this” later gives way to “Boy I’m gonna put my body in your body”). We’re floating in the water one minute, staring at the blank wall the next, then examining Plymouth Rock close up. Eventually we land in a living room where an Asian family is singing a Christmas song.

Curator Elisabeth Sherman explains in a pamphlet essay that Plymouth Rock’s rock was picked post facto, and has since been dismantled, moved and reassembled, not unlike Ms. Baga’s adaptable video, which was screened in a different configuration earlier this year in London. Taking the rock as its star and cycling quickly through imagery, the work underscores the ways in which memory and history shape our sense of space and place, often arbitrarily. But Ms. Baga suggests that our minds have the power to shuffle imagery too—that, no matter where we are physically located, our thoughts can take us elsewhere. In certain moments, the rear projector shines on a few blocks of Styrofoam to reveal on the wall a large shadow of what appears to be a home. (Through January 27, 2013)

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