Conceptual video maker Michelle Nunes admits a little Valley Girl exists in her too. But her work goes beyond the San Fernando Valley to take on cornerstones of American identity and culture: junk food, patriotism and guns. “Just take these kind of gluttonous and unsafe acts that we just have embedded in our society, and I’m going to put them together in one video.” In her six-minute video Little Liberty, the camera zooms in tight on Nunes’ face as she force-feeds herself marshmallows. As she tries to choke those down, she also tries to choke out directions for how to install a bump stock on a firearm, similar to the kind used by the Las Vegas mass shooter in 2017. The action is punctuated by explosions of fireworks, Nunes’ voice slightly sped up to sound like a child because, she says, it’s children who can be disproportionately be affected by gun violence.
Despite her identification with the Valley Girl, Nunes’s art is a far cry from superficial glitz. Dismayed by the rash of mass shootings in the country, her video “Little Liberty” (2017) features Nunes reciting the directions for installing a bump stock, while a censor bar with exploding fireworks hovers over her face. The work vacillates between discomfort and humor, as she stuffs her mouth with marshmallows, gagging and drooling through the recitation.
At the end of the first corridor, through a dark curtain emerges a colorful and meditative experience through the work of Michelle Nunes from CSUN. Her experiential installation is beautiful and magnetic, pulling viewers in to become a part of the multifaceted experience. Purple and golden light push and pull at one another, while floating pot-less potted flowers hang in disarray, slightly twirling in the idle of the space. An abstract video plays on one wall and interacts with the other material and ephemeral components in this work in thoughtful and imaginative ways. The whole experience touches on the ways our human brain associates with material, spiritual and emotional experience in this world–the experience and the space never stop moving, keeping our imagination moving in stride with the sound, colors, shapes and energy of the installation.