Cory Arcangel, Various Self Playing Bowling Games (aka Beat the Champ) (2011), all images via The Whitney
Currently showing at The Whitney is “Pro Tools,” the first major retrospective of Brooklyn-based Cory Arcangel. The show surveys a diverse set of works that display a focused obsession with both outdated technology and pop culture. The exhibition’s title refers to a software that is used in sound mixing, and becomes a synecdoche for the way in which tools and trends allow culture to move forward, but in doing so render themselves obsolete.
Exiting the elevator on the Whitney’s fourth floor, the viewer is immediately engulfed by an installation in a massive dark room in which “Various Self Playing Bowling Games (aka Beat the Champ)” is projected onto the entire wall of the first gallery. The piece projects from various game consoles from the 1970s-2000s, all auto-playing bowling games that have been hacked to allow the player to throw only gutter balls. The installation, which was co-commissioned with the Barbican in London, initially seems to have a wry irony to it, but soon moves past humor to the anxious tragic limbo of the continually distraught avatars; similarly, in another room, viewers are invited to participate in a Wii golf game in which the putt will always just miss the hole. According to the show’s press release, “Arcangel sees golf games as a simulation of a simulation, ‘a virtual re-enactment of a fake hunt played out in a carbon copy of nature.””
Cory Arcangel, Masters (2011) via WNYC
Cory Arcangel’s work relies on his use of programming as a new vocabulary for minimalism, hacking amateur technologies for use as a sculptural medium. The Whitney’s show takes up the entire 4th floor of the museum and moves through diverse and sorted facets of technological, pop, and art history. Arcangel traces the influences of Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” in a series of prints, creates an ultra-meta “supercut” of every episode of Seinfeld that mentions Kramer’s “Coffee Table Book About Coffee Tables,” and nods to Christian Marclay’s “The Clock” in a recreation of Paganini’s ‘Violin Caprice no. 5’ via a video mashup of clips of Youtube guitarists, made with a program Arcangel wrote called Gould Pro as an homage to Glenn Gould. In every piece, however, the medium is used to the end of exploring the element of technology in relation to its human users, becoming much more strongly evocative than functional.
Cory Arcangel, Photoshop CS: 84 by 66 inches, 300 DPI, RGB, square pixels, default gradient “Spectrum,” mousedown y=22100 x=14050, mouseup y=19700 x=1800, from the series Photoshop Gradient Demonstrations 2008-, (2010)
Also included in the show are large C-Prints based on an algorithm used to create gradients in Adobe Photoshop, which result in graded rainbows that are an updated, instantaneous versions of color field paintings and are, like much of Arcangel’s work, conceptually dependent on the fact that they are open sourced. Like many hackers, Arcangel has said that he believes programming code should be in the public realm- almost all of his work is easily recreatable with the right tools. An extra wink to the visitor comes in the form of a cell phone tower and Wi-Fi access station, two resources normally forbidden in the museum. Arcangel asks the question of how, in the internet age, we can qualify the privatization of art, and thereby further emphasizes what seems to be his main theme: the humanism inherent in technology.
Cory Arcangel’s major art world debut came in 2004 with the exhibition of his “Super Mario Clouds v2k3” at the Whitney Biennial; the piece consisted of a version of Super Mario modified so that nothing but the clouds remained. Since then, under representation by Team Gallery, Arcangel has shown a wider variety of works and become increasingly well known, often as the poster boy for an savvy irony he denies having any association with. He is the youngest artist to be given an entire floor at the Whitney since Bruce Nauman in 1973. “Pro Tools” will be up through September 11th, 2011.
– K. Sundberg
Exhibition Page [The Whitney]
Artist Website [Cory Arcangel]
Artist Cory Arcangel discovers the sublime in technology’s stranger corners [CNN]
A Muse in the Machine: Click. Create [The New York Times]
Cory Arcangel Plays Around with Technology [The New Yorker]
Cory Arcangel Goes Old School [The Brooklyn Rail]
I Sing the Gadget Electronic [The New York Times]
The Joy of Obsolescence [New York Magazine]
May 26: Cory Arcangel [W]
Cory Arcangel [Interview]
Cory Arcangel: 500 Words [Artforum]