Ranu Mukherjee’s three-channel film Phantasmagoric, now playing at LACMA’s Stark Bar, explores the many facets of gold–from wealth status symbol to cultural signifier to natural element.
As LACMA’s Unframed blog explains, “As the title implies, Phantasmagoric is a dreamlike sequence of constantly shifting forms and colors: the film begins in blackness, then shapes appear in rich, saturated hues that collide and fly across the screen, like geomorphic particles of a mining blast, or the kind of cosmic event that leads to the formation of gold as an element. Man-made objects crafted from gold—jewelry, watches, coins, and ancient artifacts—emerge slowly from this interstellar space and overtake the composition until another blast occurs, dissolving all objects to specks of gold dust. Out of the dust, the spectral form of a coyote appears and wanders through a barren landscape. The coyote is not only a poignant reminder of the environment at risk, but a creature associated with trickster figures as a spirit animal in Pre-Columbian and Native American cultures.”