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Off the wall for the mall crawler

August 12, 2004|Louise Roug | Times Staff Writer

Inside South Coast Plaza -- the cathedral of consumption in Orange County -- one space offers a timeout from frenzied shopping.

At the Orange Lounge, a new-media space nestled next to the Paul Frank shop and near Nike, patrons can chill out while watching video art. And, unlike what's on offer elsewhere in the mall, it's free.

The lounge, launched by the Orange County Museum of Art two weeks ago, has a decidedly trendy feel with its brushed gray felt carpets and benches molded in blond wood. A "bar" sells vitamin water ($2.25 a bottle). Video work by Bill Viola plays on a flat-screen monitor, to be viewed while reclining.

Devoted exclusively to digital and video art, the 2,100-square-foot space is the only one of its kind in a major retail complex, according to museum director Dennis Szakacs, who says the idea was to reach a younger audience.

And where better to find them than at the mall?

With the satellite gallery, "we can get video works from our collections out in front of them," he says. "At the same time, that technology really lends itself to connecting with younger people."

The museum has previously had a satellite gallery in South Coast Plaza, but this is the first devoted entirely to new media.

The opening exhibition, "Hypermedia," includes two works projected on a wall and the "Video Art Collection Archive," which can be accessed at several computer terminals.

On the gallery walls in the front room, a recently acquired work by musician and artist Christian Marclay, "Telephones," shows snippets of telephone conversations from a variety of movies -- film noir and contemporary -- strung together as a humorous dialogue.

Diana Thater's "Wicked Witch" resides in the back room of the gallery. The piece -- a psychedelic field of poppies -- is also projected onto the walls in a continuous loop.

At several computers in the front room, visitors can access a selection from the museum's video library, which contains work by Pipilotti Rist and Isaac Julian as well as older work by Nam June Paik and William Wegman.

There are also two listening stations where visitors can hear sound works, including DJ Spooky's electronic "Variation, Cybernetique" and "Chopin on the Reverse Piano, Etude #12 in C-minor, op. 10 (Revolutionary), 2002" -- a three-minute piece by Evan Holloway.

Of course, commodities can be had. The gift shop area sells art books and funky instant cameras.

But the best stuff is free.

"In our first year of Orange Lounge exhibitions, we will introduce a range of exciting and innovative video, sound and new-media works," says Irene Hofmann, the curator of contemporary art who spearheads the project. "From real-time computer-generated moving images, to room-sized video installations, to artworks based strictly on the Web, the Orange Lounge will be a dynamic site for exploring and interacting with the world of new media art."

Sensory overload?

Compared to the rest of the mall, it's mellow.


Orange Lounge

Where: South Coast Plaza, 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa

When: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sundays

Price: Free

Contact: (714) 662-3366

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