Samuel Schultz's gut-heaving black-and-white 40-second video piece is arguably one of the sickest bits of film in recent memory.

Rat Bite depicts an extreme closeup of a man's mouth in which the dolt's tongue glistens like a mackerel as thin strands of saliva cling from the roof of his palate and his uvula dances erratically.

As what appears to be some weird medical procedure taking place (or Steve-O engaging in one of his gross-out gags on Jackass), the titular rodent enters the frame. The rat sticks his head deep into the man's mouth and begins to lick the inner walls of his gob and slurp up the hanging bits of saliva.

Luis Salazar drops names.
Luis Salazar drops names.

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"Tales from the Far Side": Through August 28. Farside Gallery, 1305 SW 87th Ave., Miami; 305-264-3355

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At first, it's unclear which is more disturbing: the disgusting film itself, or the fact that it's being exhibited in a space run by a local orthodontist.

After the shock wears off, one can't help but laugh at Dr. Arturo Mosquera's wicked sense of humor. The local collector, whose Farside Gallery is located in a house next to his dental practice in Westchester, has become known for giving artists free reign at his alternative space.

"He gives us so much freedom to take risks it's hard to put on the brakes," says Eugenia Vargas Pereira, who, along with Odalis Valdivieso, organized and curated the edgy summer group show. "Tales from the Farside" features videos, drawings, paintings, photography, sculptures, and installations, and is loosely based on the popular comic strip created by Gary Larson.

Artists participating in this surprisingly clever show include Robert Chambers, Nina Dotti, Gretel Garcia, Rebeca Gilling, Monica Hernandez, Cristobal Leon, Jlo, Andres Michelina, Glexis Novoa, Jorge Pantoja, Nestor Prieto, Brian Reedy, Sydia Reyes, Luis Salazar, Claudia Scalise, Samuel Shultz, Jonathan Stein, and Evelyn Valdirio, along with Valdivieso and Vargas Pereira.

Glexis Novoa's hilarious five-minute video Honorary Guest alone is worth a schlep to the burbs.

It was shot last summer during a performance at the "Killing Time" exhibit at New York City's Exit Art space, which featured the work of more than 70 contemporary Cuban artists. A section of the show explored the origins of performance and conceptual art on the island.

In it, Novoa speaks with an actor wearing a red Adidas jogging suit and made up to look like a decrepit, post-gizzard-rupture Fidel Castro. The video is in Spanish with English subtitles.

As the artist leads el comandante through a historical documentation of the Eighties-era Cuban avant-garde, Fidel raises a bony finger and begins to frame artists who protested his regime within the context of the revolution.

When Novoa asks Fidel if he remembers the time when artists Consuelo Castañeda and Humberto Castro stormed the Cuban Artists and Writers Union in Havana disguised as a penis and vagina, the ailing gasbag is left speechless.

Another work that splits the ribs is Robert Chambers's Flymo, situated on the floor near the gallery's entrance.

At first glance, the gizmo is easy to mistake for a vacuum cleaner inadvertently left in the space. Chambers rigged a Flymo — a lawn mower turbine that lifts the machine off the grass like a hovercraft — and placed the orange contraption on a cheap Oriental rug. It roars to life unexpectedly, skittering across the terrazzo floor like a magic carpet.

Nearby, in the kitchen, Jonathan Stein serves up a syrupy appeal to the sweet tooth with his riff on Latin pop culture. Everyone Wants a Piece of ... features acrylic-paint-on-resin versions of traditional desserts atop pewter platters arranged on a lace-covered dining table. Coconut flan and tres leches confections are slathered with the leering mugs of Ricky Martin, Celia Cruz, and Salma Hayek.

Swallowing a wall, a large painting by Luis Salazar depicts a barnyard scene in which a sheep, pig, donkey, duck, and hen are roughly outlined in marker. The canvas's surface is scrawled over with actors' names, including Marlon Brando, Sophia Loren, and Robert Mitchum. Salazar seems to imply that, in a culture obsessed with the cult of celebrity, screen stars have become akin to blue-ribbon winners at the Iowa State Fair.

As one wends room to room, the works are tied beautifully through a connective thread of effortless humor.

Standouts include Sydia Reyes's tiny stainless-steel sculpture, Derailed. It's a ladder that appears to have been crushed in a trash compactor and twisted in an arching hump not unlike the tracks of a roller coaster.

Another artist who splits the pants is Brian Reedy, whose knockout woodcut prints on paper evoke a sense of medieval heraldry. Sasquatch Fart Attack depicts Bigfoot fuming a dancing toad off a tree stump via a ripping blast of flatulence.

Tucked in a bedroom closet, Cristobal Leon's video Hansel & Gretel Chapter One relates the story of a poor woodcutter who abandons his children in a forest because he fears starvation. The youngsters leave a trail of bread crumbs to find their way back home, but become lost when animals eat the food.

Leon's animation of the classic Brothers Grimm adaptation is rendered in a throwback woodcut style and has a distinctly sinister vibe. That it's placed in a closet gives the impression the artist is also toying with childhood fears of hiding monsters.

Eugenia Vargas Pereira explores the fairy tale as a source of cautionary cultural instructions and class attitudes in Girl in Red, a four-panel c-print loosely based on Little Red Riding Hood.

Vargas Pereira's version portrays the girl in a bleach-blond Lady Godiva wig and cheap scarlet prom dress. In one panel, she's saucily perched on a scooter; in another, she wrestles a pooch on a dining room floor.

In the last one, she sits, legs splayed, on a bed with her squirrel covers provocatively peeking from under her skirt. The striking images are accompanied by text conveying the nature of sexuality and cannibalism implicit in the tale.

"When I was a little girl growing up in Chile, it was not a comforting story," the artist laughs. "We used to stay on a farm in the summer and I was afraid to go out at night because of the wolves. Also I became afraid of dogs because their eyes would turn red in the car lights."

Vargas Pereira says Red Riding Hood's golden locks and crimson cape resonate with colonial structures of class.

"Some Latin women still prefer to dye their hair blond to appear European rather than embrace their roots," she says. "Women who wear red are considered to have loose morals and are immediately thought to be lower class."

Before exiting, visitors pause to admire Odalis Valdivieso's Broken Circus 2.0. The pair of encapsulated c-prints depicts boom cranes atop Miami's spastic skyline. The images are superimposed with what appear to be the shadows of trapeze artists and a bunch of clowns in pyramid formation teetering on a bike in a high-wire act.

A tip of the chapeau goes to Dr. Mosquera for his timely prescription for the summer doldrums. This show might be a long way from Miami's arts districts, but it boils with the city's pulse just the same and is well worth the haul.

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