Sensitive as we are to the national image, the “American Effect” show, at the Whitney through October 12, has received mixed reviews. The geriatric superhero ward is a hoot, but everyone agrees the show’s pick hit is Serbian artist Zoran Naskovski’s Smrt u Dalasu (Death in Dallas). Bill Murray’s “More Than This” cover notwithstanding, this 17-minute video—set to a wailing Herzegovinian ballad with Jozo Karamatic accompanying himself on the grusle—is the year’s spookiest sound-image juxtaposition.
Although Karamatic’s dirge sounds a thousand years old, it was written on the occasion of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The artist has pulled together an assemblage of appropriately ancient-looking newsreels of the motorcade and the funeral, Kennedy family home movies, Marilyn Monroe, and the Zapruder footage. The exhumed pomp and ceremony take on additional gravitas from the droning, subtitled description. Karamatic details the weather and names supporting players (Kennedy’s driver and the attending nurse) while making appropriately Homeric references to the dead king’s “daring heart” and the tears shed by “Lady Jacqueline.” The effect is like finding a familiar constellation in some new celestial neighborhood.