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Quite the Scene Upstairs at Lawndale

Will I make it through this quick review of Shawn Smith’s "Vicious Venue" at Lawndale without referencing Jean Baudrillard more than once? I think so, but it might be difficult.
Walking into Lawndale’s third floor project space feels like getting sucked into a video game of the Tomb Raider variety. First off, it’s dark. The lights only come on once you enter the room. The entire place is decked out in furniture that screams Mad Men, but the issue of the Saturday Evening Post on the coffee table is dated April 10, 1948, so I could be off by a decade or so. We’re clearly in some kind of investigator’s office. On the wall are photos and coroner’s reports. The documents reference Queensland, Israel, Downing Street and Las Vegas. An old radio spits out white noise. It’s all very dissettling, and I haven’t even gotten to the eight pixilated vultures lurking about.
Crafted from hand-dyed pieces of wood, these carrion-loving birds have torn apart a telephone and a typewriter, and one of them sits atop a taxidermied, nine-point buck, its ears and lips shredded by the bird’s blocky beak. I’m not sure if you’ve ever seen a frayed piece of taxidermy, but it’s not pleasant.

So what do we have here exactly? Nature, taken over by technology, attacks an earlier version of ourselves. Throw in a little murder mystery and some super cool touches, such as a stack of sugar cubes and an image of lumber that both reference pixilation, and you’re got quite a scene. It’s almost pitch perfect, save for a Charlie McCarthy doll poking his head out of the desk drawer. Seriously, what’s he doing in there?
Maybe we could ask the vulture who’s pulling a copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein off the shelf. He might have some ideas.

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