From 1 April to 28 June 2015, GAMeC – Galleria d’Arte Moderna e Contemporanea in Bergamo is pleased to present This is all so crazy, everybody seems so famous, the first solo exhibition at an Italian institution by the American artist Cory Arcangel (b. Buffalo, 1978; lives and works in New York).
Arcangel is one of the most influential artists of the New Media Generation and in fact the Whitney Museum in New York dedicated a solo show to him in 2011. Cory Arcangel’s work revolves around the concept of safeguarding identity as well as digital and physical memory; his aim is to revive the importance of tradition through an interest in the relationship between technology and culture, between territory and innovation, but also through the appropriation and reuse of media. His works reflect and act within a contemporary society that is powerfully digitalized, liquid and continually changing, in which the effective value of things is destined to be lost in a short time to make way for new products-simulacra of value.
Arcangel is interested in saving from obsolescence those technological objects that, until a few years ago, seemed to be avant-garde but now lie unused, condemned to an atemporality that is almost metaphysical and is no longer accessible. Although he grew up during the technological boom – when mobile phones, videogames, computers, the Internet, and the relevant updates and upgrades began to spread – Arcangel’s approach towards the society of consumption and mass communication is not that of the user or spectator, but of the hacker who can manipulate data and thus give them a new meaning.
For example, this action is visible in the well-known work Super Mario Clouds (2002-), in which the famous game is modified: most of the architectural elements have been eliminated, leaving only clouds floating against a blue background. In this way, for the first time importance is given to representation and pictorial space in videogames. For the artist, manipulation is also sharing: the instructions and source codes to execute different works are available on his website (www.coryarcangel.com) but also in a series of publications entitled The Source. This attempt at safeguarding and action is also taken up by the exhibition title – This Is All So Crazy, Everybody Seems So Famous – a quotation from the hit song by the icon of teen pop music, Miley Cyrus. The craving for one’s famous “fifteen minutes of fame” noted by Andy Warhol conceals the obsolescence inscribed in that time, so limited and vacuous with respect to the incessant unfolding of the future.
The exhibition created for GAMeC, curated by Stefano Raimondi, is one of the city’s main cultural appointments in preparation for EXPO 2015 – alongside the major retrospective exhibition devoted to Kazimir Malevich that the museum will stage in the autumn – and it will exceptionally be held in the Sala dei Giuristi of the Palazzo della Ragione in the heart of Upper Bergamo, which was the city’s political centre for centuries.
The exhibition project hinges first of all on the contrast and dialogue that can exist between one of the city’s most important historical buildings, the oldest municipal building in Italy, erected starting in the late twelfth century, and the American artist’s ultra-contemporary installations. The space in the hall has been conceived as a large platform, the middle of which is entirely occupied by a carpet from the artist’s Photoshop Gradient Demonstration series, entitled Photoshop CS: 1060 by 2744 centimeters, 10 DPC, RGB, square pixels, default gradient “Spectrum”, mousedown y=1800 x=6800, mouseup y=8800 x=20180 (2015). It was conceived through studies and collaboration with local companies, and traces the technical and technological processes of weaving, which until a few years ago was one of the province’s most thriving production sectors and has undergone a renegotiation process over the years. This work is a surface that can be walked on and it measures over 200 square metres, covering the entire floor of the room. It expands in a dazzling progression of colours, creating a sounding board for the ancient frescoes decorating the walls. The work completely envelops spectators and, drawing on a typically Futurist concept, it brings them “into the centre of the picture”.
The exhibition installation then extends along the perimeter of the space, where the artist will set his works alongside the frescoes, beckoning the spectator to engage in a simultaneous reading of the two levels of creation, the ancient one and the contemporary one. The carpet, made with the coloured and iridescent patterns of his pictorial works, is structured into blocks of colour, but the formal aesthetics are purely conceptual because the reference is one of the gradients of Adobe Photoshop CS.
The conversion of a digital “object” into a concrete object is doubled in the exhibition created for GAMeC. In fact, in addition to this work Arcangel has conceived a limited-edition silk scarf (100 pieces) with the “Russell’s Rainbow” gradient used to create a carpet shown during the exhibition staged at HEART, Herning Museum of Contemporary Art: an artist’s multiple that further illustrates Arcangel’s trans-media practice.
Among the works presented for the exhibition, the most recent ones are part of the Screen-Agers, Tall Boys, and Whales series, and the Lakes series, but also included are two works from Arcangel’s early aughts series of Nintendo modifications, Super Mario Clouds (2002-), and Totally Fucked (2003), both presented here on period specific CRT monitors. The combination of these groups of works offers a nearly complete overview of Arcangel’s creative language over the last 15 years.
The Screen-Agers, Tall Boys, and Whales series (2011-2015) reflects on contemporary worldliness with a touch of nostalgia: real pool noodles are transformed into characters, ephemeral icons of contemporaneity dressed up with necklaces, along with electronic must-haves and designer clothes, music and beer bottles randomly arranged in the room.
The Lakes series (2011-2015) is composed of installations with a flat monitor – the omnipresent symbol of the
consumer society – that have been overturned and set vertically: the artist has borrowed images from the pop culture and applied the famous Java filter “lago”, brought back from the Nineties, that creates a rippled effect, as if something were reflected on a liquid surface. The image that is created is not in motion – as we would expect to see on a monitor – nor static, but a hybrid of the two: the image on which contemporary society floats and ripples.
The exhibition will be complemented by a catalogue/work in both Italian and English that is equally sui generis. Closer to a teen magazine than a classic publication, it features a series of essays alongside elements typical of publications targeting a young audience, such as posters, stickers and gadgets. Published by GAMeC Books, it includes text by Andrew Berardini – Writer, art critic and curator; Jacob Ciocci – Artist and musician; Lauren Cornell – Curator, New Museum, New York; Giacinto Di Pietrantonio – Director, GAMeC, Bergamo; Aleksandra Domanovic – Artist; Valentina Gervasoni – Assistant Curator, GAMeC, Bergamo; Raphael Gygax – Curator, Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich; Ruba Katrib – Curator, SculptureCenter, Long Island City, New York; Sam Korman – Independent curator and writer; Tina Kukielski – Co-curator of the 2013 Carnegie International; Hanne Mugaas – Director and curator, Kunsthall Stavanger; Oliver Laric – Artist; Olia Lialina – Artist, film and video critic and curator; Barbara London – Associate Curator, Department of Media and Performance Art, The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Daniel Lopatin – Experimental musician, composer and producer; Seth Price – Artist; Alessandro Rabottini – Curator at Large, MADRE, Napoli; Stefano Raimondi – Curator, GAMeC, Bergamo.
The aim of the work is to overturn the concept of the traditional art catalogue in favour of a more accessible, synthetic and contemporary instrument. The graphics will be extremely colourful, with very short texts distributed in a lively way and interspersed with many images. The language of the essays will be colloquial, similar to what we use in our correspondence.
In this catalogue, everything will be promoted with the tone of a press release, even when it is not an ad: every piece of news will be touted as “new”, “exceptional”, “trendy” and – just like the exhibition – “not to be missed”.
Cory Arcangel has exhibited at leading international galleries and museums, including Foundation DHC/Art, Montreal (2013); the Carnegie Museum of Artin Pittsburgh (2013), the Whitney Museum in New York (2011), the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin (2010), the Barbican Centre in London (2010), MoCA in Miami (2010), and The Migros Museum in Zurich (2005).