‘Play the Wind‘ was Alex Prager’s exhibition of photographs and video at Lehmann Maupin, September 5 – October 26, 2019, and Play the Wind is the comic-book styled gallery flyer/guide thing from that show. As a fan of Prager’s work that can’t afford her artworks, it was an easy buy.
If you’re unfamiliar with Prager’s work, I reviewed her Silver Lake Drive some years ago, and I stand by everything I said then. If you’re still not convinced, her website is a great place to see much of her photography and many of her videos. In short, if you’re nostalgic for the 1980s and 1990s, if you appreciate surreal, uncanny, vignettes and scenes, single images, groups of images, and short films, then Prager is someone to look into.
Play the Wind opens with a short essay from Spike Jonze, who sees something of the LA he grew up in in the work, which is a sort of love letter to Los Angeles. The title comes from a sort of personal philosophy: when faced with a choice or decision, the outcome depends, partly or largely, on which way the wind blows, hence, “play the wind.” Prager set the scenes based on dim memories and half-remembered glimpses caught out of the corner of her eye while driving around LA, and like her earlier work, the photographs are uncanny and suggestive.
There isn’t really much of a narrative in the zine, or not one that I can easily discern, and this is maybe something of a missed opportunity given that the zine has a sort of comic-book feel. There’s an order form to cut out and mail in, like you’d find to order back issues or something, and a brief interview with Prager, sorta like a blurb from Stan Lee in an old issue of The Amazing Spider-Man or something. There’s even a sort of insert at the back for a Premium Boxset of “Six brand new stills from Alex Prager’s newest short film “Play the Wind”. OWN ALL 6! See page 21 to ORDER.” All that, plus the fonts used on the cover and the layout just sort of scream comic book, and it might’ve been nice to have the rest of the zine flow similarly, tell a story, introduce a hero and villain or something.
Wait… Maybe there is?
At one point a woman in western wear runs down a street; later, a similar-looking woman rises above a crowd in a scene that reminds me of Big Tex and the Texas State Fair. There is an image of a crowd of people in a theater, an image of “The Extras” milling around a bodega parking lot and later standing in a fog-obscured landscape where we saw the cowgirl sprinting earlier. But these are punctuated by images of people (and a car) falling; a car halfway down a cliff after the road collapsed; a woman lying on a bed; people in a movie theater lobby as seen by a child. I could probably make a story out of this if I really tried, and I’m probably too stuck on this comic book styling thing. Still, there’s a clear layer there, and it all sorta begs to be more fully fleshed out.
That said, I still rather like Play the Wind…
The nostalgia, memory trip aspect in the work is right up my alley, and I like the comic book layout and printing and all. It works, just not quite as good as it could’ve. Still. Overall, I rate Play the Wind a solid 4.5 stars.
I lost track of this zine in my mass of “to review” books and zines, and when I finally found it I re-created the unboxing video in my new format (in 4K and with the close-up flip through). People that follow my YouTube seem to appreciate the new style, and so here’s a preview:
There are several hundred unboxed and not-yet reviewed books in my backlog, and so if you want a preview of what’s to come, my YouTube has new videos Tuesdays & Fridays, and at time of writing I have videos scheduled into August 2022. My photobook acquisition has slowed somewhat in recent months—I went crazy through most of first year of the pandemic—and so I may one day switch to releasing videos one day a week just to stretch things out.
Anyway. I’m bad at self promotion, and I’d love it if you decided to like and subscribe and ring the bell on my YouTube. At time of writing, I have 927 subscribers, and I might do a giveaway when I hit 1000, maybe… Stay tuned.