Sunday, June 12, 2011

PRO TOOLS: Cory Arcangel at The Whitney

Before you read this review (or more accurately put, list of opinions and observations) there are some general things you should know about me. Those of you close to me, who know me in real life and not blog life, may already have this knowledge.

A Few Things I Hate

- computers/advanced software programs I've failed to learn/progressive technology in general

- a horrible pair of sunglasses

- Paris Hilton (not the person specifically, I'm sure she's a nice girl, just the iconography about her that every knows who she is and what she does, when in actuality she contributes nothing to society, and, if anything, is hurting the future of many young girls by being a role model this way)

- most video art

- any and all math

- the Internet (and anyone who is a self described 'internet artist')

A Few Things I Love

- nostalgic CD collections (but not so much the nostalgia of trying to find a Tower Records to buy the CD player necessary to enjoy these albums)

- miniature golf

- video games

- old episodes of Seinfeld

- bowling (video and the real thing)

- the sound (and look, and feel and smell) of electric guitars

What do all of the things listed have in common, you may ask. Well my friends, the answer is that ALL OF THE ABOVE can be found at the Whitney, in a show by Cory Arcangel called PRO TOOLS.

This show is boy friendly. I hate to admit it, but I mostly find myself surrounded by women, in both art school and in museums. Chick stuff. Fooey! Fooey I say! Ladies, bring your man friend to this show! He will love it. On a single floor of this museum one can play miniature golf, watch reruns on TV, without commercials, see the latest eye wear (for frat D-bags), and travel back in time through the recent history of video game consoles. I personally had a blast.

Cory Arcangel is a young contemporary artist, who works in many fields, focusing most of his pieces on technology. This show alone features video, kinetic sculpture, foil prints, digital prints, installation, and does not stop there.

Walking up the stairs into the gallery featuring Arcangels installation gets your blood pumping in more ways than one. Yes, it' several flights up, but one can hear the analog and digital sounds echoing through the stone stairwell, coming from six video game systems being played simultaneously. The room is huge, and from floor to ceiling on one wall is a panoramic bowl-o-rama. Six screens, fed by six gaming system, featuring six bowling-themed video games, six avatar characters in each one rolling perpetual gutter balls. Brilliant.

The artist, in front of his projections.

Set up on a table is the archive of gaming. From left to right, correlating to the projected games, Arcangel brings you Atari, Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Playsation (1st generation), Nintendo 64, and X Box.

Cory, you had me at Atari. The sound is played for each game, and the beeps and tones all going on at once can bring anyone back to a memory of standing in an arcade (or, for those not privy to arcades growing up, a Chuck E. Cheese). I was personally shocked at how crappy the graphics really were on Nintendo 64, with which I wasted many a hot summer in New York, sitting in front of, playing Mario Party 1, on 4 player mode (party mode!) with my brothers and sisters.

To the side of gallery of video games, is a kinetic (moving) sculpture of those weird, commercially available shelving units that gyrate, the way belly dancers, or Shakira, gyrates. Yes, it was cool to look at, but I can go to any alternative decor store in Manhattan and see the same thing. (I would say see the same thing for free, but I get into the Whitney for free. Its seriously the only perk of going to SVA. If you want to go to the Whitney for free, I can get one friend in free too!)

The next room you walk into also has a nostalgic sound blasting from it, those Seinfeld bass scene transitions that we all know too well. People who have never watched an episode of Seinfeld (I'm sure such people are out there :-/ ) know it from it just constantly being on TV. At a friends house, parents house, really crappy bar on a Tuesday, everywhere! Cory Arcangel re-arranged clips of every episode to make his video piece.

An ongoing conversation/topic on the series was the idea and eventual creation of a coffee table book, thought up by eccentric character Cosmo Kramer to feature other coffee tables. A book qualifying as a 'coffee table book' is, in my opinion, usually a huge, hardcover, archiving of one item or subject. Architecture, photography, different art movements and periods, a dog encyclopedia, would all fall into the category.

Kramer's idea of filling a book with images of coffee tables, to be placed on coffee tables is met with mixed feelings in the show. Jerry, the title character, thinks the idea is stupid (but I personally feel that Jerry Seinfeld has never once attempted to appreciate or understand Kramer's general genius, because in the show he plays himself, which makes him come off as a self important snob. But hey, thats just me). Publishers love the idea, and the character of Kramer makes it onto Regis and Kelly. Arcangel has complied the clips, from every episode in every season where the coffee table book is brought up in conversation, because it has become a sort of pop culture phenomenon.

By doing this, clipping all the mentions of the book together, Arcangel references the book idea itself, by relating that the book is the same in the way that it puts all of these images of coffee tables together, on a coffee table, and with little pop out legs, can even become, a coffee table.

I usually am disinterested in video art (mostly at the Whitney, I hate to say), but I thought this to be a great piece. Also, I really love Seinfeld, especially Kramer.

Next to the Seinfeld piece is a seemingly out of place eyewear display. It looks like it's been highjacked right out of a Sunglass Hut in a mall, and transplanted to this corner of the museum. The. Glasses. Are. Hideous. The kind of uber-sportsman, athlete, James Franco's character in 127 Hours wears. The kind Guy Feiti wears, despite the fact that this dude is the opposite of an athlete, and insists on wearing them on the back of his head while indoors. Ugh.

I didn't get too into the piece, it was stated that the glasses were about the supposed high performance aspect, like people who wear this kind of advanced technological shades on their eyes will perform better than those who don't. Meh, when I was an athlete I never wore sunglasses, and I got plenty of trophies. The 'everyone's a winner' kind of trophies EVERYONE got in the Downtown United Soccer League I played in for some 6 years. Good team effort.

In the same room as these two oddly juxtaposed installations were a more traditional series of works on paper, of CDs. Using foil stickers and silkscreens, Cory managed to get the sheen of a metallic CD on paper, making them look so real I just wanted to take them right off the wall, get them home, and convert them to MP3s on my iTunes. I had so many of these albums! Nirvana, Weezer, The Ramones, Warped Tour, White Stripes, Avril Lavigne (yes, okay, I had ONE album of hers)! It was so cool to see what I used to have in a CD book sleeve hanging up in the Whitney. Like they weren't just dead technologies, that this guy Cory made them into art. Well, obviously, they were art when they came out (the literal graphics printed right on the CDs).

The next gallery was somewhat a disappointment
compared to the glory of that Seinfeld piece.
If it wasn't for the interactive putting challenge
in the center of the room, I woulnd't have even bothered going in.

The only thing I learned from the putting experience, is that everyone sucks at a miniature golf video game, pre-set to make you suck. The ball goes down, to the right, every time you hit it. No matter how hard, or what direction, its like a carnival game. Rigged! I call shenanigans! If you don't believe me, go down there and try for yourself. Anyone can pick up that putter and give it a swing.

The enormous works on the wall were just print outs of those computer color spectrums. Gradients of reds, purples, what have you. I'm totally rolling my eyes right now. Like your show didn't scream NINETIES already, now we've got this Lisa Frank brought to you by Windows 94, Cory? Really?

Now's probably a good time to mention
that June is national Gay Pride Month.

Through further research, and a very vague recollection, one of these spectrum pieces was a part of the Younger Than Jesus show the New Museum put on in 2009 (each artist featured was younger than Jesus when he died. I think 36. Like it matters).

I went to this show, but I guess I didn't remember his piece because of two reasons.
1. It was boring, and 2. There was a live girl, asleep in a bed, right next to it.
HER, I remember. Sorry, Cory.

Here is a link to a video piece in a tiny dark room between two galleries. It's compiled clips from You Tube videos of people playing guitars. It's pretty amazing.

Overall, this show was totally incredible. The kind of show that any one can get their head around, especially people born in the past 30 years. Its a show for the LOL!WFT?! Generation, that I really hate to admit I am a part of, whether I like it or not. It is a comment on technology and how we've come to rely on it as much as we embrace it, and use it creatively and to our advantage to express ourselves. For better physical performance, or physical comedy, or the joy of listening to an album the way it was put together by the artist, all the way through without shuffling or skipping, the knowledge of how far in video games and graphics we've come, only to have realized that a gutter ball is zero points no matter the console or CGI. Losing is losing. Go see this show. Take advantage of the AC on a really hot day, and do yourself the favor. It's not every day you can pick up a golf club and put it to use in a museum.

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