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European artist uses three sensational real-life stories to create an engaging video installation

Jeanne Claire van Ryzin

There's so much of the newly redesigned, architecturally smart Arthouse that captures the attention and awes that it takes a moment to remember that the Congress Avenue contemporary art center now offers some of the most satisfying art-viewing spaces in the city.

The video room is one such space. Tucked off the intimate first-floor gallery, behind the breathtaking Ipê staircase that floats up to the second floor, the gallery might just be the multimedia heartbeat of the new Arthouse.

It's where you'll now find "Cross.Flowers.Rolex", a three-channel video piece by Keren Cytter on view through Jan. 23.

Take a seat on one of the mod yet comfortable industrial gray felt benches created by Arthouse architects Lewis Tsurumaki Lewis. Cytter's video begs for your attention. The Tel Aviv-born Berlin-based artist — in her first U.S. solo show outside New York and Los Angeles — offers a subtle yet clever riff on our inclination to suspend belief and accept the artificiality of film's conventions.

Cytter used three odd news events that circulated on the internet in 2009— the kind of sensationalist stories, once the stuff of disreputable tabloids, that now find a whole new life in citizen-sourced online media.

The first tale is of a woman who was shot in the head only to get up and serve tea. The second is a report of a man who jumped out of a fifth-story window, twice, and survived. The third is of another man murdered in the street, supposedly stabbed 11 times in just five seconds.

Believe it or not.

Yes, Cytter is tempting you to make logic of her fractured film, connect the disconnected dots. Or really, she's toying with the impulse we have to want to weave disparate narratives together — that need we share to visually problem-solve when confronted with a muddled filmic story.

Cytter ups the anxiety of our impulse to connect by literally disconnecting her film. "Cross.Flowers.Rolex" is shown in three parts with each screening on a different wall, and played independently. You find yourself shifting around to view all three — a film-watching version of flipping through chapters. And each film ends with a different credit roll, leaving the impression that you've watched three separate films.

Stylistically, Cytter references television crime dramas of the 1960s or the kind of jarring mod frenzy found in Antonioni's 1966 mod thriller (and masterpiece) "Blow Up."

German-speaking actors re-create the uncanny new events in various scruffy Euro-urban settings. English subtitles capture the fractured dialogue of the disconnected scenes.

But forget a clean narrative. Cytter's thrown everything out of whack in "Cross.Flowers.Rolex." And whatever violence takes place in Cytter's tripartite film seems quashed and mitigated by the rejigging of the three stories.

Ultimately "Cross.Flowers.Rolex" is wry, a clever commentary on the way we are conditioned to digest film-based media.

After all, aren't we the ones left to watch Cytter's show, relentlessly hoping to put all the pieces together?

jvanryzin@statesman.com; 445-3699

‘Keren Cytter: Cross. Flowers. Rolex.'

When: noon to 9 p.m. Wednesday-Saturdays (Wednesday until 11 p.m.), noon to 5 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 23

Where: Arthouse, 700 Congress Ave.

Cost: Free

Info: www.arthouse texas.org