525 West 22nd Street
Through May 25
An antidote to Bruce Nauman's gruelingly uneventful five-hour video installation at Dia can be found a few doors down the street at DCA, where two Danish artists, Michael Kvium and Christian Lemmerz, present an exercise in cinematic maximalism. Surrealistic, baroque, over the top, ''The Wake'' is a chaotic, three-screen barrage of hyperbolic film imagery based on James Joyce's ''Finnegans Wake.'' However true it may be to that unreadable masterpiece, it offers a montage of such unabashed dreamlike excess that it is hard not to be captivated.
Aside from its electronic music, the film is silent. With three different sections video-projected simultaneously, it runs four hours, but give it a half-hour or so and you'll get the idea. Men and women scream, drink, dance, fight, vomit and sit around naked in states of near catatonia. There is a hysterical group of schoolgirls, one teasing an old drunk with a pair of blood-stained underpants; disquieting close-ups of maggots and bugs, breathtaking landscapes, strange ceremonial scenes and moments of pure abstraction. Images in color and in black and white appear here without inflection, subjected to all sorts of distorting effects. There is churning rhythm but any general narrative logic remains indiscernible.
Lots of people will call it self-indulgent and sophomoric. Others will find it monotonous and confusing. But some viewers may enjoy the ride. Probably ''The Wake'' will not leave much of a trace on collective memory, but then again it could become the object of a cult following. KEN JOHNSON