Volatile but quiet, video spills out of gallery

For the next few weeks, you can't set foot in the Projective Eye Gallery at UNC Charlotte's Center City Building. But don't let that keep you away.

Through March 15, the gallery is home to "Betwixt and Between" by Anna von Gwinner. This Berlin-based artist and architect creates video installations that are often viewed from the street and tantalize passers-by with hints of activities happening in inaccessible spaces. Von Gwinner's work is about problem-solving, about creating a specific video for a specific space.

In "Betwixt and Between," two black-and-white rear-projection videos of uncontrolled explosions appear on screens that cover the gallery windows.

Standing on Ninth Street, you can see billowing smoke and flashes of light. Then, by entering the lobby or walking to the back of the building, you can experience exploding black powder fuses, dangling wires and amorphous shadows. Something mysterious and alarming seems to be emanating from the gallery, but the doors are locked and you can't get in.

Although the show runs nightly from 5:30 p.m. to 8 a.m., the best time to view the lobby sequence is after 10 p.m., when the building closes and the lights are dimmed - of course, you can't enter the lobby then, but you can get a clear view from outside.

Initially, the inside view seems to be the more successful one, with its well-defined imagery and imposing presence. In comparison, it is easy to miss the more pale, diffuse outside view if you don't know it's there.

But my heart belongs to the smoke. Not only does it seem like a quiet warning of perils awaiting those who are inattentive, but there is also a wonderful juxtaposition of its mayhem and the mundane happenings in the adjacent campus supply store.

This was a difficult piece for von Gwinner. Her previous street-level installations have been in older buildings in heavily traveled areas and included highly recognizable images such as figure skaters or a room filling with water.

Here, she had to deal with a contemporary building, with dramatic angles that affect how objects and movement are perceived within the space. Also, this is von Gwinner's first work that involved two different views, a creative challenge she met by creating a cause (explosions) and an effect (smoke).

Because of the location and the subtle presentation, "Betwixt and Between" doesn't have the drama or surprise of von Gwinner's other works. You have to seek it out and commit to spending some time with it. Although it may not be flamboyant, "Betwixt and Between" has a subversive, unnerving beauty that makes it engrossing and well worth experiencing.