A relatively new addition to my beloved Oakland art scene, Important Projects is a small gallery tucked into the second story of a home in residential Rockridge walking distance from BART. They're usually open by appointment only but were nice enough to hold open hours last Friday, so I swung by after work to see the current show by Michelle Ceja. The artist has transformed the exhibition space into an immersive environment utilizing little but dark paint, strips of lights around the ceiling, strategically placed mirrors, evocative objects (such as the chain you can just make out in the picture here), an ambient soundtrack, and a fan. Without telling any specific story these disparate components still combine to create a multi-sensory mood of fraught anticipation, the result of Ceja's investigations into the drawn-out tension and climactic moments that are the stock and trade of contemporary action movies. The experience of standing alone in her installation could be compared to the sometimes-isolating experience of seeing a film in a theater and plays with the idea of entering another world via that dimly-lit room. I even had a very strong visceral reaction when I first tried to step into Ceja's space. My instinctual brain registered the darkness and the sense of void, and I came to a dead stop in the doorway as my fear of heights kicked in hard. After a few panicked breaths my rational mind took over and recognized the trickery of lights and mirrors, even as my heart was still pounding, and only then was I able to enter and trust the floor to stay solid beneath my feet. Brilliant.