At Miguel Abreu, Peter Hutton Gives a God’s-eye View of Our Labors

THE DAILY PIC: A three-screen video shows us hard work, the world over.


THE DAILY PIC: Peter Hutton’s video-installation called Three Landscapes is at Miguel Abreu Gallery in New York. Its three screens show Ethiopian salt miners, farmers in lush Upstate New York and men repairing bridges in rust-belt Detroit. The piece has its roots in worker footage by the Russian avant-garde, but it doesn’t manage to be quite as romantic in its view of the working man’s struggle. The workers it shows are noble, for sure, but their manual labor is also the ultimate human burden: There’s a reason the phrase “working in a salt mine” refers to the hardest hard work there is. (Although the “mines” of Ethiopia shown by Hutton seem to be old sea beds whose salt now sits on the earth’s desert surface; it can’t be fun to be one of the men cutting the salt into planks, but my heart goes out to the camels that cart it away.) On the other hand, the sheer beauty of Hutton’s footage sends a message that all is not wrong with the world when humans are at work in it. Or maybe Hutton’s world, in its beauty, doesn’t care about humanity’s passing toil. Looking at Hutton’s three screens, I suddenly had an image of an all-seeing God – but in the guise of a security guard watching a bank of surveillance monitors,  not caring all that much about what goes on in them as He waits for His shift to end.

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