Boot's `Euphoria' lauds the drug-free high life

Movies

March 30, 2001|By Michael Sragow | Michael Sragow,SUN MOVIE CRITIC

The first use of the word "euphoric" I read after watching Baltimore video artist Lee Boot's mind-tickling "Making Euphoria" (screening tonight at the Creative Alliance) came in a book about a drug dealer who realized in 1973 he could fly dope out of Mexico and was "euphoric over the new possibilities."

I mention this because Boot himself likes to use books as building blocks for his art projects (he once worked out his love-hate for the printed word by taping books together to make an easy chair) and also because there's a link between his latest work and drugs.

Boot won the funds to create "Making Euphoria" from the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Collaborating with co-producer-photographer John Chester, Boot made a show that urges teens and adults to go beyond just saying no - and say yes to something better.

His enthusiasm is naked and infectious, whether he's "building things in the air" in his sky-blue studio or addressing the audience in boxing trunks, next to a bare bulb. His goal is to dislodge the belief that you can find happiness through consumption, and substitute the idea that joy comes from emotional and spiritual growth and creative activity. (Isn't that what Steven Soderbergh was saying in his classy Oscar speech?)

To help him do so, Boot calls on an athlete, a singer, a legendary New York tour guide and neuroscientist Dr. Frank R. George, who confirms the facts behind Boot's assertion that transcendent exertion sets you free and gets you high. Boot is a refreshingly down-to-earth experimentalist. He uses funny, tactile props and images, like a fake brain with a tiny disco glitter ball inside it, to locate the intersection of biology and philosophy. Your brain is what you make it. According to how you exercise it, your brain actually changes.

Boot's tone is both ebullient and dry, his rhythms staccato without being assaultive, and his and Chester's deployment of the space and the material inside the video frame amounts to stream-of-inventiveness. After teasing us with tubular furniture, he creates an installation with tubing and funnels that evokes the brain's physiology. At first the coils seem as fraudulent as the triangles in the failed-artist episode of "Seinfeld," but when Boot is done they have a funky luminosity. So does this whole video: It's cockeyed yet sane.

"Making Euphoria" screens at 8 p.m. today at the Creative Alliance, 413 S. Conkling St. in Highlandtown.

Cinema Sundays

Cinema Sundays gets rolling again this weekend with "Bridget Jones' Diary," the first in an eight-film series. Doors to the Charles Theatre open at 9:45 a.m., with coffee and bagels in the lobby. Sandy Asirvatham of City Paper will introduce the movie, which starts at 10:30 a.m., then facilitate a discussion afterward.

A subscription to the full series costs $88, with a mini-subscription (any four films) available for $52. Tickets for individual films are $15 at the door. Call 410-727-3464.

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