For the Project Space exhibition, titled Safety Belt, Eng draws on a rich history of identity-oriented art that includes early 1970s performance and video art (Bruce Nauman's Video Surveillance, 1969-70, comes to mind, as well as Peter Campus's high tech projections involving audience silhouettes from around the same time) and Conceptualism's self-conscious confessional mode, both of which are being mined extensively by young artists in the Œ90s. Real time portraits of the audience have become an avant garde staple, often mediated through advanced technology, at least since minimalism.
In Eng's installation Safety Belt, a video projection of a crowd entering a tunnel is thrown up on one wall, and security mirrors are mounted on the opposite wall. When the viewer enters the room, a hidden camera tracks his or her movements and projects them, in real time, onto the crowd in the tunnel. As with Campus's video installation pieces from the early 1970s, and more recently in Diana Thater's dizzying, impressionistic video installations, the viewer, simply in the act of viewing, modulates the work's appearance. The presence of the spectator, then, is required not only for the installation to become activated, but for the piece to acquire meaning. It has become a special kind of genre that keys into larger investigations, ranging from the sociology of the art audience to philosophical notions of subjectivity.
In a smaller installation, titled Pure Red, a paper towel dispenser mounted on the distant wall of a darkened room glows from the light of the mini video monitor embedded in its front. Stained paper towels strewn on the floor seem to rustle in the projected light. On drawing closer to the dispenser, wading through the towels, the viewer finds a looped video that shows a red-gloved hand fondling a Colt .45 pistol. In this slow-hitting one-liner, Eng plays political, investigating notions of cleansing as both a form of purification and of mass murder.
-Anastasia Aukman, Curator Artists Space 1996