Images Blog 2 - 2010 Andrew James Paterson
Power Plant Mar.26 - May 24
Podworka ¾ Sharon Lockhart, Any Ever ¾ Ryan Trecartin,
Reflections and Inflections ¾ Peter Campus, Hypnagogia ¾ Joachim Koester
The spring 2010 exhibition at the Power Plant, timed to coincide with the 23rd Images Festival, consists of four solo installations, each of which work individually as autonomous exhibitions, but which also combine to form one show, as the four installations play off each other with their contrasting histories of media-art, audience, community, and consumption.
Any Ever, by “Younger than Jesus” wunderkind Ryan Trecartin, is the highest profile of the four installations ¾ his is the hottest ticket with the maximum hype. Trecartin is not yet thirty and he is already a bona fide international art star. Trecartin is definitely one of the world’s true maximalists ¾ “excessive” does not even begin to describe his and his collaborators’ aesthetic. Outrageous genderfucking performance, multi-layered virtuoso editing, flamboyant set dressing and design, and absurdist dialogue (although one has to listen carefully to the squawking helium in order to catch the bon mots) ¾ all of these tropes plus others are (literally) in our faces.
Any Ever is comprised of seven projections in seven “containers”. There is one with bleachers, one with a picnic table, one with airplane seating, one with very comfortable beds, and three more. All come with headphones. There is already enough cacophony without more accidental inter-container bleeding or leaking. The containers indeed could be describes as “anti-chill rooms” ¾ they may resemble attractively solitary spaces at a spiralling party or delirious social event but their contents are not relaxing or soothing but rather agitating. Trecartin’s work is so on-line, so hyper-digital, so cyber frenetic kinetic, that there is no point in personal immersion unless you are willing to become infected.
The name “Jack Smith” is routinely dropped as a key influence on Trecartin’s practice and aesthetic. I would suggest Jack Smith crossed with Pee Wee Herman’s Playhouse, or Warhol’s factory at which the amphetamine addiction/consumption is literally formalized so that characters speak in a weird Valley Girl hybrid of Britney Spears and Donald Duck. I also entertain Jackson Pollock being both queered and digitalized. Trecartin and friends simply cannot stop both painting and editing. If there were any still images, then there would be a whole lotta dripping. However, Trecartin and his collaborators (particularly set-dresser/performer Lizzie Fitch) have no time or use for stills. Their hyperkinetic world is the deliriously-distorted mirror image of our own mall culture and stock market crashes. Surely I am not the only blogger or pundit in the world who has noticed parallels between Dada and The Stock Market? Surely not only Trecartin’s company speaks Globalese?
The frenetic digitalia of Any Ever stands in contrast to the three other installations currently at the Power Plant. Trecartin’s post-still image aesthetic is a polar opposite of Sharon Lockhart’s investigation of boundaries and parallels between photography and moving images. In Podworka, Lockhart records or documents six groups of children in quietly public spaces in the Polish city of Lodz. Her camera is completely static, and the children seem to be unaware of her presence. This of course is not always the case in documentation exercises involving locations and “communities”. But Lockhart is working with an ontological or empirical or geographical definition of that word “community”. The children and citizens go about their everyday play and activities in their own time ¾ they are not digitalized let alone self-digitalizing. Lockhart avoids any directorial moves or movements, and the gallery viewers are free to be changing their perspectives. There is no bench ¾ not to mention bleachers. There is no spectacle, other than the installation’s habitation of a public art gallery.
Also on the Power Plant’s ground floor there is Hypnagogia, by Joachim Koester. The word and title Hypnagogia refers to the threshold between consciousness and sleep. In such a state, one ceases to think or analyse and consequently just does what is already internalized. Such somnambulists achieve freedom through obedience, one might say. Three works comprise this installation. They refer to automatic writing and art-making, to dancers enacting symptoms of a spider’s bite, and to movements generated by the teachings of Carlos Castaneda. These works are at least as drug-influenced as those by Ryan Trecartin, but Koester’s referenced drug is mescaline or peyote ¾ a thinking person’s psychedelic. My Frontier is an Endless Wall of Points (after the mescaline drawings of Henri Michaux) evokes not only automatic drawing but also editing. I more than suspect Trecartin edits himself into trance territory, as well might Koester, at least with regards to this particular work. However, the latter artist spares us the soundtrack, and is all the more effective for doing so.
The top floor is reserved for a seminal older work and more recent works by Peter Campus. This artist is one of the proto-explorers of video’s formal properties ¾ he is particularly interested in the relatively nascent medium’s relationships to gallery space and its effect upon its audiences (gallery rather than theatrical audiences). Reflections and Inflections consists of two works in two separate rooms. Anamnesia (1974) encourages audiences or viewers to approach a mirror and see themselves, but with both a delayed original (self) image and a duplicate. I myself was wary of this piece, which seems to share parallels with Dan Graham’s earlier mirror-centric work. I am one of those people who does not attend art galleries to see myself mirrored ¾ certainly not literally and usually not metaphorically. However, when I had the gallery to myself, I found myself composing a little dance piece with myself and my sort of doppelganger. I could look beyond my unflattering image to see my body as material that could be (self) manipulated. And the newer piece in the other upstairs room ¾ light and colour around Ponquogue Bay (2009) ¾ is exactly that. It is six rectangular colourful landscape “paintings” into which the artist has inserted various digital rectangles that play havoc with the works’ surfaces. The backgrounds and foregrounds become intertwined, as the landscapes are themselves revealed to be digital representations of “nature”.
One could say that Peter Campus encourages viewers to see themselves in the mirror, while Ryan Trecartin arguably sets up mirror structures and then denies self-recognition (except for those who do recognize their fragmented selves). One could say that Campus conflates community with audience ¾ in contrast with Lockhart’s geographical/empirical use of the noun and Trecartin’s cyber-digital cubicle network. And Koester seems to be quite preoccupied with ritual, and also the willingness to surrender. All four installations refer to consent and agreement and contracts. You may be reflected in either a flattering but most likely an unflattering light, suggests Campus. You may observe these children at play but you must not impose on them since I have not, commands Lockhart. You may choose to go further with what I am presenting to you and enter a delirious zone on that wonderful fault line between sleep and consciousness, offers Koester. And you have entered my containers or my landscape or digitalia and you must have fun because you really have no other choice, according to Ryan Trecartin. Welcome to the funhouse, indeed!