Thursday, November 20, 2014

Arcangel Leaves Much to be Desired

36-year old contemporary digital Art veteran Cory Arcangel’s latest show at Team Gallery titled “TL;DR” (an internet acronym that stands for too long; didn’t read) was comprised of a series of digitally manipulated images playing on monitors that were hung from the wall like paintings. Most, but not all, images on the monitors featured pop culture references from the past 5 years. Images of icons like Beyonce and Jay-z, Britney spears, Larry David, and Skrillex were among the subjects. The ground of the gallery was carpeted with a bright red carpet, possibly as a reference to pop cultures’ famous red carpet.

Arcangel used a java applet created in the 90’s called “Lakes” to manipulate the images. Lakes’ algorithms took the images and manipulated them so they had a soft, rippling effect towards the bottom. The movement that Lakes created in the images was soothing and somewhat familiar.
While the images were aesthetically pleasing, there was much left to be desired on a deeper conceptual level. The idea of using “older” technology to create digital works is interesting, but there is no apparent direct tie between the technology he used and the subject matter. Why did Arcangel choose to use “Lakes” on these images and not different subject matter? There was a missing link between the technology and the subjects.

Additionally, there were some pieces that seemed to be wild cards, or not really fit in with the majority of the other pieces. For example, in the back of the gallery there was one piece that was just geometry, and had hardly any manipulation. Unlike the rest of the pieces, it was not a photograph, and did not have the digital manipulation. While it was a nice piece, it really did not fit in with the rest of the show, and stuck out as something that wasn’t really needed.

Overall, Arcangel’s show was visually pleasing and a fun experience. Contextually, it was a progressive show for the art world, however not his strongest due to lack of underlying concepts, and did not leave much to think about prior to exiting the gallery.

1 comment:

  1. I liked hearing your take on Arcangel and not that I know you too well (at all), but from what i've gathered in class, you are a graphic design major and you are familiar with Arcangel's previous work. So it's interesting that you believe the exhibit "leaves much to be desired". I, personally, like the show and continue to be a fan of Arcangel's. Maybe because i'm just slightly older than him and he went to my alma mater, Oberlin College, but I get him. I get that his aesthetics is trying to preserve the pre-internet era of integrating technology with art. Its his investigation of being an architect, a programmer, a tinkerer, a cultural preserver, a historian of 80's and 90's era computer/video game and pre-internet technology. It's fitting then that you see "no apparent direct tie between the technology he used and the subject matter" and I almost believe that's what he intended. Its his layers of piecing together what quickly becomes outdated metaphors in Lakes that brings out the tension. His is an 80's/90's nostalgia aesthetics which still influences much of today's internet society. The red carpet to me was really the basement or tacky modern carpeting indicative of that era. His artistry was built on being that teenager living in the basement and playing video games while friends came over. Something you might not relate to because back then, the computer or video games (definitely not cable or internet) ran through the TV screen. Thus Arcangel's cables laying on the ground haphazardly. And to then take internet photos that aren't even that iconic or symbolic or important but to put them onto flat screen TV's (an aesthetic of today's culture) and turn them vertical and to have a slightly hypnotic rippling effect on a portion of the image shows how even Arcangel's genius choice of computer programming and hacking doesn't stand the rapidly evolving image consumption that the internet gives us. In other words, as beautiful as those "portraits" on TV's look in a gallery setting and no matter the subject on each one, there's not enough fuel from the past to regenerate the meaning behind the photos. One wants to replace them with the swipe, not take the time to look at a picture that has been manipulated by a complex architecture of programming - so the appreciation is lost. And that's what makes an Arcangel an Arcangel. Is that he is always degrading the image (moving, graphic, digital, computer, etc.) and taking out pieces and data from it in order to recontextualize it and definitely not necessarily to contemporize it. It's to fold it back into itself and to almost slow it down or bring it back to its roots.