Cory Arcangel, Various Self Playing Bowling Games (aka Beat The Champ), 2011, fourteen video game consoles and fourteen video projections, dimensions variable. Installation view.
Cory Arcangel’s latest work, Various Self Playing Bowling Games (aka Beat The Champ), 2011, is a video installation featuring fourteen bowling video games made between the 1970s and the 2000s. Each game is rigged to roll only gutter balls and plays in scoreless loops. The video installation is a co-commission between the Barbican Art Gallery in London and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Here, the artist discusses his thoughts on video games, social media, and his latest Web-based projects. The Barbican exhibition is on view until May 22; the Whitney show opens on May 26.
WHEN I WAS A KID, I didn’t have a Nintendo. So I’d go over to my friend’s house, because he had one, and I’d just sit for hours and watch him play The Legend of Zelda. I never liked playing video games very much––still don’t––but found watching them so boring that somehow it became infinitely fascinating to me. And if you really want to know, this is where the inspiration for Various Self Playing Bowling Games comes from.
The work is a video installation of multiple bowling video games, and each has been hacked or modified to only roll gutter balls. As you walk into the Barbican you see the games projected next to one another in a long row. The projections are big—like Bruce Nauman big. The first versions you see are the earliest bowling games, and as you walk along the games get newer and newer until pretty much the present day. At the Barbican there are fourteen games in total.
I chose bowling because it was the most ridiculous and awkward virtual experience I could think of. Think about it: You are sitting in front of your TV and there is this little virtual avatar made out of polygons throwing virtual bowling balls. It’s a great metaphor for all the different ways that life is spun around technology. And in Various Self Playing Bowling Games it’s humiliating—what’s more humiliating than throwing a gutter ball?—but a bit funny at the same time. It mixes all these things together and the result is this kind of despotic sadness tinged with a bizarre, weirdly endurance-related humor.
A lot of my work uses humor to express a suspicion of technology. A recent performance piece that is a good example is called Working on My Novel. It’s simply a Twitter search for the phrase “working on my novel.” When you search that phrase on Twitter you get all these people talking about how they’re working on their novel. The joke is of course that if you’re twittering about how you’re working on your novel, you’re probably not working on your novel! I love these situations.
Another, and probably one of my favorites of the newer works, is titled Sorry I Haven’t Posted. It’s a blog that reposts people’s blog posts where they apologize for not blogging. They all include the phrase “sorry I haven’t posted.” I sift through about fifty a day to pick only the best ones. They are often equal parts sad and inspiring.
These situations are of endless interest to me because they amplify the contradictions that are on the rise as technology becomes an increasing part of our lives. I’m not immune to any of this either. I spend a lot of time on computers––all of my time actually––and of course my work is primarily digital. But that said, I don’t really approve of any of it. It’s a love/hate thing, I guess.
Various Self Playing Bowling Games is part of a series I have been working on for a few years, and I still have some ideas left. For example, I could have a self-playing fishing video game. I like the idea of a guy who can never catch a fish, who just stands out on a boat forever, or a football game where the player gets sacked over and over again into eternity. There are so many possibilities, and all of these endless scenarios that could play out forever.
Since the mid-1980s, the Spanish, Geneva-based dancer, choreographer, and artist Maria Ribot has been creating works that humorously merge video and performance art. Her 2009 piece Llámame Mariachi (Call Me Mariachi) will be performed during the Swiss Dance Days at the Dampfzentrale in Bern, Switzerland, on March 5 and 6.
IT’S VERY DIFFICULT to summarize the two parts of Llámame Mariachi. But let’s try: The first part is a twenty-five-minute video titled mariachi n°17 that consists of a single take. It’s shot by the dancers––Marie-Caroline Hominal, Delphine Rosay, and myself––with a handheld camera; the camera is passed from one performer to another, and so the piece becomes a physical and sensorial exploration of the point of view of the body dancing. The video was shot over six weeks in the Salle Caecilia, a proscenium theater where you can work in both the stage space and the auditorium, at La Comédie de Genčve. The set is mostly built from material found on site; but mirrors have been added, and also a collection of large-scale architectural photographs by Miguel de Guzmán, showing a new theater
under construction. The lights and photography by Daniel Demont are remarkable. Daniel is one of my oldest collaborators. This piece was a huge challenge because of the constant, fast changes of focus, the close ups and wide shots, and the coordination with the choreography. In all, this demanded more than eighty lighting changes. In the video, the camera explores the perspectives in the photographs, generating a confusion between the real set and the space in the pictures. The “17” in the piece’s title refers to the shooting process: The single take that I’ve used was the last, seventeenth take, which we shot just hours before we had to vacate the set.
The second part is a live, onstage performance in which the three dancers move in slow motion, read from books, and make funny improvised asides, foregrounding a pseudoanalytic and intellectual experience of live performance and the status of spectators and interpreters. Both parts pervert and question perception––of the space in the video and of the weight of time (historical, cultural, and performative) in the live part.
The inspiration for the video section came first. It derives from ideas that go back to my early camera explorations a decade ago, and that I’ve been working on ever since. The point of the handheld camera is to humanize the apparatus: When you watch the video, you’re thinking about the hand (or the body in this case) behind the camera, not the machinery. The single take is the best way to stay close to the experience of live performance when you’re working with video.
But the camera work also intensifies the video’s quality of perpetual motion. I edited the music with my collaborator Clive Jenkins from a selection of pieces by atom™, a fantastic musician who can work with any music—from Bach to pop or Latin. In the edit we avoided any kind of repetition; we were listening for themes with a quality of flow, that kept on going and going.
That’s also the quality I went for in the video extracts. As the camera travels through the set, it comes upon video monitors screening film clips; we watch for a moment and then move on. The clips come from Powell and Pressburger’s The Red Shoes (1948), the 1974 disaster movie Earthquake, and Sam Raimi’s 1985 Crimewave, and they all have a kind of paranoid quality where everything’s in motion. But there are other cinematic inspirations behind the work—for instance, the wonderful last dance in Aleksandr Sokurov’s Russian Ark (2002); or Zbigniew Rybczynski’s 1987 video Steps; or the fantastic scene in Mikhail Kalatozov’s I Am Cuba (1968) where the shot ends with the camera diving into a swimming pool.
The second half of Llámame Mariachi, the live part, is essential, because, unlike the video, it keeps on changing. So far, we’ve performed it in three languages. Elements of it rely on the texts that we read from the books, but the improvised asides are the complicated part. Sometimes, although they are unscripted, they’ll seem fake. There is always something to redo, to change, and for me that's the crucial part. Everything in life that interests me keeps on changing.
Xavier Dolan, Heartbeats, 2011, stills from a color film, 95 minutes. Left: Marie (Monia Chokri). Right: Nicolas (Niels Schneider).
Xavier Dolan is a celebrated twenty-one-year-old filmmaker from Montreal. His first work J’ai tué ma mére (How I Killed My Mother) won three awards at the 2009 Cannes Film Festival. His latest piece, Amours Imaginaires (Heartbeats), opens at IFC Center in New York on February 25. Here, Dolan talks about obsession, love, and the impact of French modernism on his work.
IF IT’S NOT OBSESSIVE, IT IS PROBABLY NOT LOVE. Passion and obsession are very similar. It’s just that we don’t have reciprocal feelings most of the time and so we tend to view obsession as one way. But when it’s reciprocal, it becomes passion. For me, to be obsessed with someone is to be in love and to be in love is to be obsessed. I don’t consider obsession a pejorative word or wrong.
I found more of my inspiration for Heartbeats in literature and visual art rather than other films. Marie and Francis, the two main characters, are passionate about the impossibility of what they fell for. They’re into the image, or the concept of love more than love itself. What is exciting for them is the idea of being loved by such a beautiful person. In the party scene where they’re dancing, they see this guy and Francis thinks of Cocteau drawings and Marie sees excerpts of Michelangelo’s David, for me this is a scene where I am trying to explain that they’re experiencing projection. They don’t know this guy: he’s rather uninteresting and he has questionable charisma. In essence, he’s pretty empty, but the characters don’t see this. They’re excited by the fact that he is out of reach; that he’s an impossible quest. What’s exciting to Marie and Francis in unrequited love is not that it’s love, it’s the fact that it’s unrequited; that they love the idea of being treated like shit. It’s modern and subtle sadism.
It’s like Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, when the Narrator says “I’ve wasted years of my life, I’ve wanted to die, had my greatest heartbreak for a girl that didn’t love me. For a girl that I actually didn’t love, didn’t want to love, and who wasn’t even my type.” He always had whatever he wanted and it’s the fact that she wanted him so badly when he didn’t, and when he actually tried to love to her, he was indifferent. That dead love and obsession made him fall for her and to me that is very interesting because it seems to be the rule.
This film is not revolutionary in its subject matter. My mission in life is not to become a revolutionary film director or even a great director. My ambition in life is to be a great storyteller. So in this film I am exploring how I have always been a victim of love.
There is this scene in the film where Marie is walking on the street and she’s got this dress on, a 1940s dress with a little buckle in the back and she’s walking in slow motion and she’s got a very nice ass. In the reflection of a storefront window she passes you can see a Metro truck driving by, which annoyed me when it happened. Metro in Quebec is a chain of grocery stores and this reflection seemed like a catastrophe because it’s just so unromantic and it has nothing to do with the gracefulness and the elegance of the shot. At the same time, I love it. It’s so complimentary; a happy coincidence. I am actually lucky. It reminds me of how much these characters are living in an alternate reality when they’re walking down the streets completely in love.
Through March 3, the Centre for Contemporary Arts in Glasgow is presenting an exhibition devoted to the work of filmmaker Harun Farocki. The show includes workshops, seminars, screenings, discussions, and three of Farocki’s two-channel video installations, I Thought I Was Seeing Convicts, 2000, Comparison via a Third, 2007, and Immersion, 2009, as well as a selection of thirteen other works spanning his career. Here, the artist discusses Immersion and In Comparison, 2009, his most recent film and a companion piece to Comparison via a Third, employing overlapping themes and footage.
BOTH IMMERSION AND IN COMPARISON use repetition in their formal structures. As early as my first film, Inextinguishable Fire, 1969, I worked with repetition and variations, probably influenced by reading books, including Brecht and Beckett, and listening to classical music. Because I love to work with few elements, I have to combine them in various ways. A language with a large vocabulary, like English, can make do with a simple grammar, but a language with fewer words has to find more ways to combine them. Even from watching narrative films, one can learn how important repetition and variation are: Most locations appear at least twice. This occurs for economic reasons, but it also structures the film, and makes you compare scene A with Aą.
For In Comparison, I wanted to make a film about concomitance, and about contemporary production on a range of different technical levels. So I looked for an object that had not changed too much in the past few thousand years. This could have been a shoe or a knife, but a brick becomes part of a building and therefore part of our environment. So the brick appears as something of a poetic object. I follow its mode of creation and use in Africa, India, and Europe. The issue of labor and production is something I’ve often pursued. In recent years I’ve made a number of films about the immaterial work we find in our own postindustrial countries. My work is also quite immaterial.
The concept for Immersion began when my collaborator, Matthias Rajmann, sent me a newspaper clipping about the introduction of a computer program called “Virtual Iraq” in the US. When using the system, veterans and traumatized soldiers watch a simulation of the scene that traumatized them, and then verbally repeat what happened. Because I knew from my research for earlier works that soldiers use similar computer animations for training, I thought this would be a striking similarity/opposition: The same kinds of images are used both to prepare for the war and to deal with its aftermath. However, the animations for therapeutic purposes are made a bit more cheaply, so no people or things in them cast a shadow. But does imagination need shadows?
Immersion is presented on two screens. Since 1995, when I was first asked to produce something for an art space, I have often worked with double projections. Here the situation is quite simple: We see a person on one side, and what he or she sees on the system’s head-mounted display appears on the other channel. This can also be done with two images on a single screen in a theater, and I have in fact shown Immersion in cinemas and at festivals. One could say that art spaces have appropriated cinema—but the reverse also happens.
Following her recent exhibition at the Moderna Museet in Stockholm, the influential American artist Mary Kelly is mounting the largest and most comprehensive gathering of her work to date, at Manchester’s Whitworth Art Gallery. The exhibition opens on February 19 and a daylong symposium at the gallery will be held on March 26. A catalogue with essays, interviews, and selections from Kelly’s notebooks will accompany the exhibition.
THERE IS A WAY OF UNDERSTANDING MY WORK in relation to film, especially when you see so many of my projects together. Although I moved away from film in the early 1970s, I took many of the medium’s aesthetic strategies about real time and duration into the installation context. A work like The Ballad of Kastriot Rexhepi requires a 360-degree pan, and that is quite satisfying for me because the viewer gets pulled in and has to walk around it. Those phenomenological aspects are also very important in my later pieces. I used to call this “narrativizing space,” but now I wonder whether that’s the right term to use. I’ve been thinking about this since “The Dialogic Imagination,” a workshop we had in Stockholm last October, and perhaps the title of that workshop offers a better way of thinking about this process. I’m more interested in the way a construction of dialogic space is created in the later works through fairly anecdotal writings, which you can see in much of my art.
The Moderna exhibition was thematic, not like a retrospective or a survey, but concentrated on four works in a way that interested me. When we discussed the show at the Whitworth, I knew that I wanted to include as much complete work as I could, rather than just bits and pieces. I wanted the viewer to get a sense of the major projects over my career, and to have an idea of the questions I have been addressing over time. That’s why we decided to call it “Mary Kelly Projects, 1973–2010,” and it does include nearly all of Post-Partum Document, which hasn’t been seen in the UK for over thirty years, and several of my more recent works, such as Vox Manet and Circa 1968, which explore political activism. It also has the Multi-Story House from Love Songs, works that draw upon women’s experiences. Additionally on view is Habitus, my latest work, an installation based on the Anderson bomb shelter that was mass-produced for domestic use during World War II. I hope that viewers gain an understanding of what I’ve called the “discursive site,” a support for the work that’s much broader than a specific medium, but something more like a location, or a community, or an oppositional discourse. For me, this discursive site began with the women’s movement in Britain at the end of the ’60s and the kinds of questions that emerged at that time around sexual difference and identity. Those questions carried on after Post-Partum Document, from the mother-child relationship to questions about masculinity, and those then evolved into the questions about war and ethics that underpin my later work.
What really excites me most is what’s going on in the present moment. Even in work where I’m returning to 1968 as an image, it’s not really about the past but more about how the past is appearing in the present. Quite a while ago, when I had a show at the New Museum in 1990, I began to ask if in fact this moment of feminism and psychoanalysis was really over, or if it had any meaning for people now. At the time I realized it just keeps reinventing itself in many different ways, and I think that comes out in some of the pieces. Around the same time, I began to think about generations, not anthropologically, but through the major historical events that have affected people and have cast a really wide net around them. The generations between 1965 and 1985 were very much impacted by what happened in 1968. And that made me think about the period of World War II, and wonder why the generation brought up during the cold war was so cut off from our parents. We were not curious because we thought we were going to change the world––we weren’t going to make that same mistake again!
When I looked over all the work I also realized how important voice is to me; it’s almost a found object in my practice. Although I’ve never published my notebooks before, it seemed important to include some pages from them in the catalogue. Over the years, I’ve kept conversational notes, drawings, and more theoretical notes. These are all mixed up and interconnected, but they become the material that I try to work on. So there’s always the combination of the everyday experience and an attempt to grasp the big picture at the same time, but in the notebooks you can see how organic it all really is.
Navid Nuur is an artist based in the Netherlands whose intricate process-based works question the permanence of the art object and connections between idea and form. Here, he discusses his solo exhibition “Post Parallelism,” which is on view at Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen, Switzerland, until April 17.
MOST OF MY WORKS cannot be classified as installation, photography, or sculpture. I grew tired of people trying to categorize them, so I decided to come up with a new, perhaps more creative name. I use the term “interimodule” because they are temporary modulelike works that feed off each other when they are together. For instance, the light emitted by one work might be absorbed by another.
The title of this exhibition, “Post Parallelism,” picks up on a theme that I explored in a previous interimodule. In that work, I stood in front of a bookshop hanging my head and carrying a sandwich board that read AT THIS BOOKSHOP I HAVE BEEN STEALING CONCEPTS FOR MY OWN ART. I AM A THIEF NOT AN ARTIST. I wanted the sandwich board to evoke the ways in which artists borrow ideas from other artists and disciplines. They establish connections or parallels between these borrowings and create artworks from them. Today such parallelism has become a mindset: Artists mix different temporalities, making parallels without caring. They have so much information at their disposal that they are able to make connections between phenomena or concepts that might seem very far apart. As a result, we no longer have just parallels, as we did before, but post-parallels. In the exhibition at Sankt Gallen, for instance, a single concept or material is split into multiple components: The fluorescent light system on the ceiling is partly functional––it lets you see where you are going––but it also comprises a number of tubes that have been removed from their fixtures in order to form a composition of light-emitting bodies that is experienced as an artwork. In this case, post-parallelism refers to the oblique, tangential relationship between objects or works that originate from the same material or concept.
Light is only one of the materials I use in the show. Another is vitamin D, which is produced when your skin comes into contact with ultraviolet light from the sun. There is a white monochrome painting made from crushed vitamin D used as a pigment. The pigment makes the invisible visible and connects the exhibition space to the world outside. The large window in the gallery looks onto the outside, while the neon on the ceiling gives light so you can see the vitamin D painting inside. Here, too, there are what I call “counter-works,” or elements emanating from the same concept.
Many of my pieces begin with an object or idea that intrigues or irritates me. Where You End and I Begin, for example, is a piece about the last full stop in the exhibition handout, the punctuation mark that follows the words “when you end and I begin.” In the work, the period has been enlarged and displayed alongside the handout, which was not written by me but is about my art. The dot, an object derived from information about my work, holds the key to my artistic practice, while the text explaining my practice has been turned back into art.
Looking is not enough for me; I also like to taste, touch, and smell. Vitamin D can be taken through the mouth, so you could imagine licking the vitamin painting. There is also the work Forest with No View, a pine crate that diffuses pine oil so that you can smell the tree when you walk through the crate. Whereas some artists draw on archival references to navigate our increasingly multidimensional world, I work from the body out.