If Charles Addams had been a performance artist, he would have been Matthew Owens. This self-described insomniac fills his work with the kind of terrifying surreal images one usually sees only in nightmares: burn victims, rotting cadavers, recently hacked-off body parts. But his sensibility is more comic than Grand Guignol; his aim is not merely to shock, but to shock and provoke laughter. Which is why in Owens’s world, burn victims lip-synch Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire,” recently decapitated heads thank us for listening, and first-aid dummies spew quarts of blood during CPR demonstrations. In his current show, RM 1348, Owens restrains his predilection for gore to explore the more subtle but no less troubling horrors of life as a hospital patient. Performing from a hospital bed–his head shaved, his eyes ringed with dark circles, a drip IV connected to one arm, and another tube leading up under his gown–he recounts his various experiences, interrupting his stories to demonstrate the various indignities of being a patient (the open-in-the-back gowns, the difficulties of moving while connected to a catheter) or to perform a self-deprecating shadow-puppet show on the hospital curtain (in which the puppets argue about the meaning of Owens’s performance). The result is a show that stretches the boundaries of both realimsm and comedy. Club Lower Links, through December 28 (954 W. Newport, 248-5238). Saturdays, 9 PM. $7.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Debra E. Levie.