Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Cory Arcangel

Way back in 2002 or 2003 some of the RWC crew went to the Frieze Art Fair in Regents Park, London to see what’s crackin’. It was then that they discovered Cory Arcangel, who arguably has the best name in contemporary art.

Cory Arcangel (born 1978) is a digital artist who lives and works in Brooklyn. His work is concerned with the relationship between technology and culture, and with media appropriation. Basically he uses and abuses technology like PC’s, Gameboys, SNES’, email, etc, etc to make art. If you think of him as a sculptor whose medium is little chunks of 8-Bit Nintendo data you are getting close to understanding what he does.

Being of a similar age to Cory Archangel it was easy for the RWC crew to relate to his work. At the Frieze Art Fair Cory displayed a video diptych. Both projections were hooked up to Super Nintendo’s with one running a hacked Super Mario Brothers cart where everything was erased except the scrolling clouds. The other SNES (to the left) was running a hacked F-14 cart that was displaying an F-14 jet fighter flying off into the infinite clouds of Mario Brothers (to the right). This work had instant appeal aesthetically and conceptually to the RWC crew. It was relevant in so may ways, at the time the use of a fighter jet flying continuously and going nowhere at the same time was a great metaphor for the Gulf War.

If you read about Cory Archangel on the net or hunt down his videos on Youtube you will notice that many people will have beef with what he is doing. The hardcore computer hackers are not impressed by what is simply code re-writing and don’t really understand it in an art context and the traditional art world crowd just think he’s a computer nerd who likes to tinker with no substance to back it up. Like Jeff Koons you are never too sure what side of the fence he is on, genius or phoney, art history maker or chancer? Here are some of our favourite comments from some of Cory’s youtube videos…

“Nice try angel, up to your old tricks. Creating absolute bullshit crap and then trying to pass it off as art. It sickens me to read your interviews and hear all the Artsy journolist trying to describe˛ˇ how "New" and "fresh" your art is. It's shit... and I would love to see you try getting through art school. You don't hold a dim candle to most of the art a first year student creates. You are all Hype, and nothing more. A faker, and you know it too..Am I supposed to take this video seriously?”

“this has go to be˛ˇ a joke/!?”

“I'm not impressed. "Hacking" a Nintendo - basically, breaking a few lines of code here and there - not impressive. And then taking that and setting it to music? Not impressive either. Is this art? Yes. But does it suck? ˛ˇ Yes.”

“Actually his bullshit is the art. Where as some artists make bullshit and pass it for art he kinda just laughs and says it is bull shit, which then makes it an inside to every one. So really he is not so bull shit. I like some of the stuff, some of it is meh, but I˛ˇ mean he produces a ton of work you cant really fault the guy.”

“wow, this is˛ˇ really uninteresting work. i get the motivation, but not much intelligence or inspiration exhibited here.”

It is not only this Andy Kaufman style public debate of whether Arcangel is legit that appeals to the RWC crew, obviously growing up in the 80’s and 90’s we had first hand experience discovering and playing with the tools of his trade, and so Cory Arcangel’s experiments are easy to relate to. What is interesting about his work, which often perpetuates the ‘genius or phoney, art history maker or chancer’ argument is the fact that he rarely has any idea of how the equipment he is using actually works.

“I have such a hard time with Photoshop 7 and can barley accomplish anything with it. It’s always telling me some layer is locked or needs to be rastered or whatever there is. Half of the time the things I am trying to accomplish don’t happen cause I am so stupid and bad at it. I am serious here, but I can’t figure out how to draw a line. I don’t think I have the right “line module” so every time I try to draw a line it comes an arrow. And when I try to switch the line preset it says I only have the arrow available.”

One of his more recent works gives you instructions on how to make it in Photoshop eliminating the role of the artist completely, again Arcangel and Koons have this in common, just watch this video of Koons’ studio, I bet he hasn’t gotten paint on his shiny sneakers since 1986. In fact Cory Arcangel tells you how to make most of his work on his website.

Photoshop CS: 110 by 72 inches, 300 DPI, RGB, square pixels, default gradient "Spectrum", mousedown y=1098 x=1749.9, mouse up y=0 x=4160

This work addresses the role of technology in determining the way that viewers appreciate art. The medium determines the outcome, not the artist. His Adult Contemporary exhibition work uses many of these themes, this is what he had to say about it…

"Imagine me buying some video equipment off of eBay, turning it on, pressing some random buttons, and then calling whatever comes out my ‘work.’ This mind-set is the spirit of Adult Contemporary. In contrast to some of my older work, which exercised a somewhat subversive use of modern digital tools, the pieces in this show are inspired by the idea of using technology exactly as it was designed, although in a manner best described as ‘non-expert.’ What if the possibility of using a system poorly in an uneducated manner were celebrated? What if I, as an artist, attached my name to the aesthetics of different eras of technology without really bothering to do my homework or even reading the manual (so to speak)?”

Arcangel's work has appeared in many museums, including MOMA, The Whitney Biennial, The New Museum and the MCA Chicago among others. So with all these credentials he must be doing something right, right? Well the mainstream art world are taking him seriously but is he just tagging them along? He does consider himself a ‘comedian’ according to his own website. OK, the RWC crew have decided where Archangel sits in the art world, is he a chancer or a genius? Either way whether he is a chancer or a genius we are glad we purchased one of his F1 landscape prints for $26 years ago because you sure as hell can’t buy them for that now.

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