A still from I Feel Your Pain, video documentation of a performance piece from last fall. (Image courtesy of the artist and Derek Eller Gallery.)
A man and a woman kiss. They drown each other in flattery. They tell each other that they’re “the one.” They say no one understands. This may sound like the purplest of purple prose scenarios. (And it is.) But it’s actually a live performance that employs the transcript of a Sarah Palin interview by Glenn Beck as its script. Instead of Beck and Palin in the lead roles, however, it’s a couple of young lovers. The words may be the same, but the actions aren’t. It’s grody-fascinating to watch.
For the performance piece, I Feel Your Pain, Liz Magic Laser created more than a dozen theatrical shorts out of television news transcripts (staged as part of the Performa festival last year). Steve Kroft’s 60 Minutes interview with Barack Obama in the wake of the Osama Bin Laden assassination becomes a clubby conversation between two bros sipping soda. It was literally nauseating to watch. Not because the actors were bad. Quite the contrary. The performances are all strong (and Annie Fox, shown above, is particularly riveting to watch). It’s all just a reminder of the uncomfortably cozy relationship between politicians and some members of the media.
For a few pieces, like the ones mentioned above, Laser employs a single interview as script. For others, she weaves together similar language from several Q&As into one cohesive story. Interviews and speeches by Mary Landrieu, Christine O’Donnell and George W. Bush are spliced together into a single work that addresses culpability. It is a riveting work of political theater. Literally. (Though I could have done without the mime-clown character — I mean, why???? — that Laser introduces in a few of the pieces.)
You can catch video of the project at the Derek Eller Gallery through this Saturday, April 21. If you’re a political or media junkie, this represents an intriguing, outrage-inducing intersection. Find the screening times here. And yes, it’s worth it to sit through them all…
How to Jackson Pollock your bedroom while listening to metal.
Glitter poufs. That is all.
Should you sell your art on e-Bay? Or should you listen to that Pink Floyd album one more time?
This is the first post in what will hopefully be a long-running series called “Artist’s Choice.” In which a guest “curator” is invited to share their favorite bizarre/weird/hilarious/absurd YouTube videos. Kicking off the first round is painter Franck de Las Mercedes, who comes through (with flying colors), with a selection of YouTube instructional videos devoted entirely to art.
Thank you, Franck! Now I know what to do with those tired bedrooms walls…
Man, I LOVE Robert Hughes when he’s railing against money!!! And this short documentary series about how money has come to rule the world of contemporary art is so good, I’ve posted posted all six episodes here. Not only is the message (and the historical footage) all kinds of amazing, the scenes that show Hughes staring dramatically into space are straight out of Masterpiece Theatre. There are many fantabulous moments in this doc (footage of Robert Rauschenberg crashing Robert Scull’s auction of his work is one of them), but my most favorite comes in Episode 6, in which Hughes interrogates collector Alberto Mugrabi about art. IT IS FUCKING SUBLIME (even if Hughes conveniently overlooks the fact that Rauschenberg was kind of phoning it in at the end).
Seriously, light a fattie and watch this. It is sooooo good on so many levels.
Double hat-tip to Jörg Colberg for pointing the way on this. The additional five episodes can be found below.
A screengrab from Francis Alÿs’s 2002 video, When Faith Moves Mountains (now on view at MoMA). In which volunteers shoveled pieces of a Peruvian dune. The line across the dune is the advancing row of shovelers. Naturally, this brought to mind…
…the 1987 Cheech Marin flick Born in East L.A. — in which all the Mexicanos storm the border to a Neil Diamond soundtrack. ¡Orale!
One of the best visual tricks in Ryan Trecartin’s solo show at PS1: A mirror on the floor reflected the video on the screen on the wall — allowing the viewer to take in the already-hallucinatory spectacle upside down. (Photo by C-M.)
Ryan Trecartin at PS1
I’ve been pondering the Ryan Trecartin show over at PS1 and felt like I needed to come back to it in a more meaningful way, since I think that my initial assessment was quite glib. I’m gonna be honest: the work still grates on my nerves. The relentless Alvin and the Chipmunks talk inspires a prejudice I don’t know that I can overcome. (I also find Elmo exasperating, so it may just be me.)
But, the show at PS1 did make me appreciate Trecartin’s work more than I had in the past. I’d seen his videos at the Hammer Museum in L.A. a few years back and they’d pretty much driven me nuts. I appreciated what he was doing visually: the gender-bending, the banal, suburban-style backdrops peopled by surreal scenarios and the self-centered internet-ish habit of having characters speak over each other rather than engage in dialogue. But the cumulative effect of spending a couple of hours watching his videos left me feeling as if I’d been subjected to an eternity of Nyah Nyah Cat. It was an orgy of excess — with characters who were excessive, scenarios that were excessive, dialogue that was excessive, overstimulation delivered in industrial doses, the raging American id as channeled by the YouTube generation.
His work is still about excess — the show at PS1 eats up a whole lot of real estate and no doubt has a fairly spectacular carbon footprint. But I have to admit that the surreal sculptural sets from which you view the work made this exhibit, more than any other I’ve seen of his, far more intriguing. The squishy chairs and giant headsets left me feeling as if I was truly part of the work. In addition, the wall-sized video projections gave the whole thing a kind of sci-fi vibe. In fact, as my partner-in-crime reminded me, it was right out of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 — a world in which the walls talk and the citizenry has no ability to turn them off. Montag, the main character bemoans this condition: “Nobody listens anymore. I can’t talk to the walls because they’re yelling at me. I can’t talk to my wife; she listens to the walls.”
Viewed in that light, I came away respecting the gesture, even if the tweaky nature of the characters still left me irritated. And even though it left me wondering at what point an artist’s commentary becomes the act that he’s critiquing. But maybe that’s the point…
In short, the ‘The (S) Files’ confirms what should be obvious but rarely is in the art world: there are scads of artists out there with careers and lives that don’t, whether by chance or by choice, revolve around a few square blocks of mid-Manhattan art real estate. At the same time another truth is demonstrated: In a highly competitive market that turns art schools into art mills, a lot of art, no matter where it comes from, looks like a lot of other art everywhere.
Kyle Chayka at Hyperallergic thinks some critics just aren’t looking hard enough for good work. I think I land somewhere in the middle: you’ll always find something fresh if you search for it, just like you might find orchids in a swamp, but it might mean a whole lotta slogging through navel-gazey art school mumbo jumbo to turn it up.
Stories that make me realize I should never bellyache about anything ever: Photojournalists talk about the pictures that almost got them killed.
I’ve enjoyed the Rebus-like arrangement of images that Joseph Maida and Katie Murray have gathered for their exhibit, Picture Consequences — in which one artist responds to another’s image and vice versa. You can see the sequential stream of photos here, or at the Home Front Gallery in Long Island City through August 27.