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Cory Arcangel’s Unofficial Review

Cory Arcangel Art Talk(2)

Cory Arcangel talk at MOCA NOMI, April 24, 2010. Copyright: Noelle Theard.

The use of technology and self-expression are becoming more and more intertwined as people evolve to depend on everyday use of the Internet. The Internet enables us to extend our assumed personalities over wide networks, which begins to blur the lines between life, art, and Internet personas. How does this effect our communication with each other in real life? How does real life rank up against what’s documented on the Internet? And do people who don’t operate in that sphere get left in the dust?  If you’re over the age of 65 and attended the recent Cory Arcangel ‘artist talk’ at the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, the answer to that last question would probably be yes.

Cory Arcangel seemed to ask these questions of the Internet in regards to perceiving art during his heavily internet-aided artist lecture. We were taken on an automated ride on his stream of consciousness for two hours. He amused us with random websites, favorite YouTube videos, and examples of his own art available on the Internet as well. Arcangel sees the beauty in a devout fan taking the time to make a Deep Purple fan page. His pace was very fast and where the first few rows of white hairs must have had a hard time keeping up, this Internet generated format was appealing and perfectly normal to the younger generation.

Drei Klavierstucke op 11Arcangel

Cory Arcangel, Drei Klavierstücke op 11, 2009, Single channel video from a digital source, 15:58 minutes, Edition of 5 from Cory Arcangel The Sharper Image, Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami. Copyright: Steven Brooke.

Generation Y is used to having five windows open at once, watching YouTube videos while simultaneously downloading music, sharing what they just ate for breakfast and getting frustrated when pages take longer then two seconds to load. Arcangel is of this generation and uses the Internet as a playground for his comical interventions. He has many works that solely exist on the Internet, such as Punk Rock 101 (2006), where he placed Google ads on Kurt Cobain’s suicide letter. Or Drei Klavierstucke, Op.11 (2009) (pictured above) that consists of video footage taken from YouTube of cats on pianos reorchestrated to play Schoenberg. This video was displayed the Museum as well as it is still continually available on Arcangel’s YouTube channel. This begins to mark an age divide of who Arcangel’s real audience is, of who his art is more accessible to. The younger generation has grown up not only surfing the Internet but also learning to communicate with it. I think this specific audience will be the most able to find inspiration in the simplicity and humor of Arcangel’s ideas.

Besides his Internet work much of the media Arcangel uses stems from a childhood that anyone who grew up in the U.S. in the 80’s and 90’s can relate to. From vintage video games to Guns N’ Roses, walking through his exhibition can give you a sense of familiarity and comradery. In Untitled Translation Exercise (2006) Arcangel sent the entire script of the cult film Dazed and Confused to an Indian outsourcing company to have it read aloud. He then dubbed the Indian accented version to the original movie. There arises a tension between an immediate sense of nostalgia and then the humorous shock of hearing unfamiliar pronunciations on an old favorite. Similar to when you go to take a sip of milk and get orange juice.

I Shot Andy Warhol, photoshop series, Arcangel

I Shot Andy Warhol, 2002. Handmade hacked Hogan’s Alley cartridge and Nintendo NES video game system, Edition 5.  In the background from left: Photoshop CS: 84×66 inches, 300 dpi, RGB, square pixels, default gradient “Spectrum,” mousedown y=8,900 x=15,600, mouseup y=13,800 x=0, 2009. Unique c-print, 84 x 66 x 2 ¼ inches. Collection of Ninah & Michael  Lynne. Photoshop CS:  110×72 inches, 300 dpi, RGB, square pixels, default gradient “Spectrum,” mousedown y=27,450 x=6,700, mouse up y=4,800 x=19,050, 2009, Unique c-print, 113 x 75 x 2 ¼ inches, Collection of Rachel & Carl Berg. Copyright: Steven Brooke.

In the piece I Shot Andy Warhol (2002) (pictured above) Arcangel altered a Hogan’s Alley video game to where the obvious goal is to shoot Andy Warhol. Arcangel temporarily leads us to a potential frame of mind of Valerie Solanas with the simplicity of a plastic toy gun. Again this piece is naturally more relatable to a younger audience because of a shared collective past with the artist. If you grew up with games like Duck Hunt and Mortal Kombat, picking up the gun was like second nature with the apparent objective being to kill the opponent. Of course he could also be hinting at how our culture glorifies crime with simulated violence. Or how far removed we’ve become from this historical event. Why is something that could be considered a brutal crime, funny?

Being that I am part of a younger generation, I can see how an artist like Cory Arcangel would speak to us.  Contemporary art can sometimes seem like an elite club. Where if you haven’t read a certain theoretical text that relates to it, you can’t get in. Now, on the other hand, Arcangel’s work offers the feeling that we can be on the inside of the joke. Throughout his (unpretentious) lecture and practice he exemplifies to be oneself. Besides exploring the internet as a new frontier for art and how technology is beginning to “define our lives”, Arcangel shows us that if put into the right context, surfing the internet, hacking video games, and idolizing Axel Rose can get you somewhere[.]

This post was contributed by Autumn Casey.


  • Mr. Fuentes-Arrow

    Gee whiz you’re young and I am old.
    Engaging in an artist’s work has more to do with innate curiosity then age. Taking swipes at the “cotton tops” in the first few rows is meaningless. These people took time to hear a young artist speak about their work. Yes, Cory is mining the internet for subject matter and using it as a platform for presenting his work. This too is beginning to feel old and out dated, much like the circa 1980s video games he incorporates into his work.
    Nice “youthful” and exuberant interpretation of the exhibition.

  • admin

    Yes, Kevin. As Richard and I were discussing yesterday, one’s ability to communicate does not lessen specifically with age. In fact, the older one is, the more dexterous and proficient one tends to be at it. Citing the ability of Civil War soldiers to not just write, but write eloquently, in contrast to standards today. There was a show on NPR recently in favor of the printed word and how the use of the internet and they way we use it for osculating snippets of information (5 tabs at once) is addling our faculty for deep, contemplative thought. Of course, like anything, its how you use it that counts. Surf responsibly.

  • Richard Haden

    As we all know the Internet is a wonderful means to communicate in a positive way, as well it is a dismal way to communicate the breading of cancerous anti-social and alienating groups like Tea Party misanthropes.

    As well, we already know, that the Internet is a wonderful way to access knowledge “freely” as “open source” resources show us… where as in the past, when I grew up, it was harder to access information / knowledge because of geographical or terrestrial hurdles or the lack mentoring making it difficult for many less privileged to gain access. Yet to valorize voyeurism on the net, can lead us to forgetting that there is an addiction to living primarily in a virtual habitat–It becomes less about communication and more the cause for self-retardation that used to be primarily Televisions domain. And when the Internet becomes less about conversations and communication or learning or less time spent as community than “being in” the real world of dirt, then we run the risk of Archangels critical world as being the sign of crisis…the crisis of techno control running us instead of us running it.

    Obesity grows in self-isolation, the edification of alienation can also be a byproduct of a gamers world, as well too much passivity leads towards the all to unfortunate consequence of solipsism.

    As for the so called older generation, It is naive to assume that an older generation’s lack of Computer skills is a sign of anything other than not having the ability to multitask for it is not an evolution in the humanities or a human evolutionary advance to be able to hold 5 or more windows open while suffering the apparent effects of self-inflicted attention deficit disorder… With out an ecology of the virtual world we can easily fall into not knowing how to see beyond the world of the not so radical YouTube(ista).

  • K-mo

    Casey’s is a curious review of Archangel’s amusing talk at MOCA. The main point of the article seems to be that we (Y-ees)know more than you (non-Y-ees). The piece is filled with generalities and assumptions about non-Y-ees that are inaccurate and appear to be based on a self-centered and perhaps naive view of the world.
    Below find more on the Y-ees – a description and psychological analysis of Casey, et al. Maybe both essays overstate generalities.

    The Why-Worry Generation


    For the past few years, it’s been open season on Generation Y — also known as the millennials, echo boomers or, less flatteringly, Generation Me. Once described by the trend-watchers Neil Howe and William Strauss as “the next great generation” — optimistic, idealistic and destined to do good — millennials, born between 1982 and 2002, have been depicted more recently by employers, professors and earnestly concerned mental-health experts as entitled whiners who have been spoiled by parents who overstoked their self-esteem, teachers who granted undeserved A’s and sports coaches who bestowed trophies on any player who showed up.

    As they’ve entered adulthood, they have inspired a number of books on how unmanageable they are in the workplace, with their ubiquitous iPods, flip-flops and inability to take criticism. Stories abound about them as college students, requiring 24/7 e-mail access to professors and running to Mom and Dad for help with papers or to contest a bad grade. A consensus has emerged that, psychologically, they’re a generation of basket cases: profoundly narcissistic and deprived of a sense of agency by their anxiously overinvolved parents — in short, a “nation of wimps,” as Hara Estroff Marano, the Psychology Today editor at large, has put it.

    The behavior of many of this year’s college seniors might further fuel this story line. They are graduating into a labor market decimated by the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. The unemployment rate for early 20-somethings is close to 20 percent. Increased applications to grad school have turned that option of sitting out the recession into a reach. Even going into teaching — hyped a year ago as the most acceptable Plan B for high achievers turned off by (or turned away from) Wall Street — has become much tougher, as school districts have been devastated by budget cuts. Yet despite the fact that the new graduates are in no position to pose conditions for employers, many are increasingly declaring themselves unwilling to work more than 40 hours a week. Graduates are turning down job offers in high numbers — essentially opting to move back home with their parents if the work offered doesn’t match their self-assessed market value.

    According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, which every year surveys thousands of college graduates about their job prospects and work attitudes, fully 41 percent of job seekers this year turned down offers — the exact percentage that did so in 2007, when the economy was booming. And though less than a quarter of seniors who applied for work had postgraduation job offers in hand by late April (compared with 52 percent in 2007), many are still approaching work with attitudes suited for a full-employment economy.

    “Almost universally they want to find a job that’s not just a job but an expression of their identity, a form of self-fulfillment,” says Jeffrey Jensen Arnett, a Clark University psychology professor who interviewed hundreds of young people across the economic spectrum for his book, “Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road From the Late Teens Through the Twenties.”

    Not only do they believe these perfect jobs exist, but today’s recent graduates also think they’re good enough to get them. “They see themselves as really well prepared and supremely good candidates for the job market,” says Edwin Koc, director of research for the National Association of Colleges and Employers. “Over 90 percent think they have a perfect résumé. The percentage who think they will have a job in hand three months after graduation is now 57 percent. They’re still supremely confident in themselves.”

    For critics, this is irrational exuberance, an example of group psychosis, proof that this generation is headed for a major crash. “It’s not confidence; it’s overconfidence,” Jean Twenge, a professor in the department of psychology at San Diego State University and author of “Generation Me,” told me recently. “And when it reaches that level, it’s problematic.”

    But at a time when so many of their elders are struggling emotionally to keep their heads above water — dealing with layoffs or the fear of layoffs, feeling the walls closing in around them as whole professions contract in new and unanticipated ways — the children, you have to consider, might be on to something. I interviewed nine students recommended to me by college professors and officials, yielding a picture of emerging adults with a striking ability to keep self-doubt — and deep discouragement — at bay. Many were jobless, others were dissatisfied with their work or graduate-school choices, yet they didn’t blame themselves if life failed to meet their expectations. They didn’t call into question their choices or competencies. It was as if all the cries of “Good job!” they heard as children armed them against the repeated blows of frustration and rejection now coming their way.

    “They’re extraordinarily optimistic that life will work out for them,” Arnett says. “Everybody thinks bright days are ahead and eventually they will find that terrific job.”

    These emerging adults may be off-putting to a worried 40-something — their sense of entitlement and their lack of humility are somewhat hard to take — but they’re not necessarily maladapted. On the contrary, with their seemingly inexhaustible well of positive self-regard, their refusal to have their horizons be defined by the limitations of our era, they just may bear witness to the precise sort of resilience that all parents, educators and pop psychologists now say they view as proof of a successful upbringing.

    It may be that this resilience — this annoying yet admirable ability to stay positive in depressing and frightening times — has nothing to do with the parents. Perhaps it’s a result, as some longtime observers of this generation have suggested, of growing up in an era of almost unremitting ambient anxiety: school years spent in the shadow of Columbine, 9/11 and, lately, widespread parental job losses. Maybe chronic unease has simply raised this generation’s tolerance level for stress, leaving it uniquely well equipped to deal with uncertainty.

    Or maybe having a bulked-up ego really does serve as a buffer to adversity. Just like the self-esteem gurus always said that it would.

  • K-mo

    Cory Arcangel’s talk was brilliant. Most creative people do their work, then prepare with care a presentation of their product. Most presentations lack definition of who is the person, what is her working process, how does he spend the day and with whom. Arcangel showed us his product in a seemingly random ramble, but more revealing was the man, who his collaborators are, how they interact to produce, and what is his creative process. I think Arcangel simply spent two hours of his normal day with us. No preparations made, no stilted monolog, just Cory Arcangel in a red ball cap presenting Cory Arcangel in a red ball cap.

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Cory Arcangel’s Unofficial Review