Visual art exhibitions and events with a platform for critical writing
Old Rapid Hardware Store, 52 Renshaw st, Liverpool, Liverpool
18 September - 28 November 2010
Reviewed by: dave evans »
I couldn’t bring myself to watch the whole of Ryan Trecartin’s Trill-ogy Comp in the basement of the old Rapid Hardware store on Renshaw st in Liverpool. In a straight-forward man versus (three) film battle, the films beat me, pure and simple. I watched as much as I could but just didn’t have the stamina to watch them all. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy trying, Ryan Trecartin makes very exciting, frenetic and madly odd films, but they are tiring.
I sat through the entire 50 minutes of the first film I encountered, Sibling Topics (Section a). It began by offering a tease of a narrative, something along the lines of a recorded video message, in the form of a horrible workout video by a pregnant teen mother to be, to her unborn quadruplets, but I quickly lost any real understanding of what might have actually been happening. From then on I occasionally tuned into several layers of what I thought might be sub plot, but they didn’t feel like they were there to be understood in the traditional linear narrative sense. The action zipped between various characters in a number of fairly mundane settings, hotel room, suburban kitchen, nightclub etc intermingled with 3d modelled graphics and split screen effects. The characters themselves, however, were far from mundane. Ceader, one of the ‘Balance Sister’ quadruplets, played by Trecartin himself, is a perma tanned nightmare in Bermuda shorts and a jade green crop top. She doesn’t sit still for a second, there are high kicks, hair flicks and melodramatic bed flops all in the space of seconds. The same goes for pretty much all the other characters, everyone looks a little (or a lot) strange and is doing something slightly odd. It’s part video game, part music video, part Gone with the Wind, part web cam dance routine, part coke ad, ad infinitum. The ‘dialogue’ sounded as if it had been assembled in a William S Burroughs style cut and paste of internet chat room transcripts, infomercials, video game instructions, corporate mission statements and so on. It is successful as no influence domanites or is readily identifiable, the audio track blends together so much that something new and unique is created.
Much has been made of the culture of appropriation and sampling in art and elsewhere, but that conversation finally seems redundant in the age of the internet when it is taken for granted that material will be reprocessed. In the case of Trecartins work, it feels almost embarrassing to attempt to establish a frame of reference, but I will. Sibling Topics (Section a) felt like what second life might look like in fifty years time, when fantasy and reality become indistinguishable given the right hardware. The characters had the synthetic, constructed, quality of digital avatars (this guys legs, that girls boobs, that orange bob etc). There’s also an explicit androgyny to the characters (“she’d probably shoot me if she saw my very extreme breast reduction - which I love!”) and a quick-change swapping of identities which references the edit, re-edit then delete nature of constructed digital personas. While these fractured characters spend the duration of the film interacting like crazy, it’s interaction in the digital sense, there is communication and mutual activity, but it’s dizzyingly lightweight, devoid of any real consequence and ultimately – heading nowhere. It teeters on being a bunch of drunk teenagers playing around with make up and a video camera, filming for youtube, but this teetering acts as a gigantic, hysterical tipping point which never quite materialises. The characters are too engaging, the dialogue too snappy, the sets and footage too formally complex, and as I mentioned this film alone is 50 minutes long. It is almost an epic, virtuoso piece of film based within a medium and aesthetic in which these are the last qualities you expect to find. And that was only part one of three.
I was frankly surprised to find more work by Trecartin further along the corridor, and tried my hardest to watch K-CoreaINC.K (section a). It felt more sexual and aggressive and featured lots of men/women/boy/girls in matching blonde wigs and Sarah Palin glasses. Again, there seemed to be multi layered sub plots, some of which appeared to revolve around corporate job interviews, and global business, but I’ll admit, my attention was flagging. The only other reference I was able to properly absorb from K-CoreaINC.K (section a) was the use of lots of Ikea lights and furniture, a recurring motif. I’m unsure if it was just my over exposure to Trecartins work by this point, but I felt that K-CoreaINC.K (section a) was slightly less nuanced, the Ikea motif overly apparent, genitalia exposed to create shock. Trecartins films work better for me when the sleaze and ‘branding ‘ is cleverly implicit, as it is in advertising and the media. That said, Trecartin’s K-CoreaINC.K (section a) trod a fine line between pastiche and parody of the drunken teenage you-tuber, but still pulled it off with neon aplomb.
I was almost scared to venture further into the belly of the biennial building as I knew there would be more, and there was. I peeked around a corner and saw P.opular S.ky (section ish) in progress. Not wanting to ruin an enjoyable visit, I decided to save it up for the future and left.
I was happily surprised by what I’d seen of Ryan Trecartin’s Trill-ogy Comp. I’ve not encountered many, if any, artists who have so successfully digested and regurgitated the experience of living our commercially and digitally saturated life styles. Trecartin uses slick consumer technology and the vernacular of the internet to move beyond the uniformity and impersonal nature of the digital experience to create a work which feels relevant, like a crazy reflection of a real, tangible lived episode, which is quite a feat when you stop for a millisecond to think about it.
Dave Evans is an artist and writer based in Liverpool.
Old Rapid Hardware Store, 52 Renshaw st, Liverpool
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