A Miami based contemporary art newsletter / blog

Too Much Information… Ryan Trecartin’s ‘Any Ever’

Any Ever (2011) installation view, courtesy MOCA, North Miami.

Any Ever has now been exhibited at MoMA PS1 (2011), MOCA, North Miami (2011), MOCA, Los Angeles (2010), and internationally at The Power Plant, Toronto (2010), and The Istanbul Modern (2011). Subsequently Any Ever is scheduled to be shown at Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris beginning October 18th.

Ryan Trecartin’s videos are as chaotic, smarmy, and irreverent as anything that could be distilled from ‘Jersey Shore’ or ‘Real Housewives of (wherever).’ Teenage types, often in in multi-colored, smeared-on make-up, carry on in ‘Valley Girl’ banter about… ‘whatever.’ Their tempos are hyper-compressed, the action contained only quasi-sequential and plots are indecipherable and seemingly inconsequential. A bunch of artist-collaborateurs, cast child actors, and the artist himself cavort in front of video cameras, in some cases shooting the action with their own cameras in an engaging exercise of apparently careless, self absorbed chaos.

The MOCA North Miami installation, concurrent with a prior exhibition at PS1, features seven roughly 45 minute parallel videos shown in spaces, sometimes rooms, that are equipped with different furniture arrangements: beds, benches, stools, office chairs, a picnic table, large projection screens and headphones.  The spaces are defined in the video wall-menu as ‘section ish’, ‘section a’, ‘history enhancement’; the 7 videos are called: ‘Ready‘, ‘P.opular‘, ‘Sibling Topics’, ‘K.Coreal.NC.K‘, ‘Temp Stop‘, ‘Roamie View‘, and ‘The Re’Search‘. These seven videos were shot during Trecartin’s 2009 artist residency at the Moore Space (now closed) in Miami’s Design District. Explanations for each video typically refer to other videos in the series; characters who ‘either reappear or are replicated as young girls’, characters who ‘roam backwards through time’, situations described as ‘real and not’, that ‘key the understanding of Trilogy Comp.’, as ‘simultaneously familial and corporate,’ and finally the statement that ‘transeumerism, or consumerism driven by experience, is also introduced as a central theme and also underlies the plight of  JJ..”(One of the characters).

Any Ever (2011) installation view, courtesy MOCA, North Miami.

Watching these comfortably presented videos then is an individual experience where the viewer zones into Trecartin’s mad world of artfully ambiguous language, complex structures and inexplicable contradictions. The non-stop barrage of dissociated sequencing, the harsh pitch of the endless dialogue, the machine gun editing, and the hyperactive antics of the cast all generate a kind of Attention- Deficit- Disorder-fiesta. It is so like the day-to-day TV and Internet, infomercial overload, that the sense of pathos and stress seems immediately as familiar as it is indecipherable.

What seems significant is the apparently careful structuring that goes into producing these hot messes: Trecartin scripts his videos, placing him up there with Frank Zappa, who’s scored Rock ‘n’ Roll compositions could scarcely sound more spontaneously improvised. The use of language, here in its most ruthless contemporary colloquial forms, is particularly striking. In a recent interview (LINK) the artist said “I try to explore language as something that extends into every aspect of a presentation. And so when a character has a sentence, the sentence has position, body language, a palette of accents and face all being used equally to read meaning. The clothing, hair and makeup are then extensions or additional words to the person’s form or attempt to originate a read. This happens again with the editing and final affects. The whole piece is language and so the presentation of the face is an aspect of that language expressed. I don’t see it as dramatic, but more as in pace with the speed of thought expression.

Any Ever (2011) installation view, courtesy MOCA, North Miami.

The editing job here is the most artful mix of images, effects, sequences, tempo switches, etc., in memory; the stream of conscious barrage feels as righteously tight as any of the best jazz compositions or Blues riffs; or for that matter as any hyper compressed 30 second spot ad. Trecartin has said of his use of cinematic time that “Yes, time is altered to enhance and encourage felt experience. The timing is manipulated to take the viewer into the piece enhancing a more ride-like digestion of the story, making the act of viewing a part of the piece. The timing comments on the current theme being experienced and explored in the current scene. It all depends on what moment of the piece you happen to be watching. And maybe the timing is a character that evolves and has it’s own “plot personality.

These videos are incredibly watchable, funny, tragic, idiotic and un-assimilatable as electronic digital life itself. Beyond their qualities of superb craftsmanship and accessibility, Trecartin’s videos stand out because they mirror aspects of contemporary life so successfully, and by exaggeration so vividly, that they enable us to step back and see clearly. The way these characters interact, constantly expressing and repeating their own thoughts and feelings, showing little to no interest in what the other characters have to say, seems on closer inspection, to reflect the way so many people now, massaged by the intoxicating pleasure of texting and tweeting their own communication, are less inclined to consider what others have to say in response, or about themselves.

Of course, this isn‘t exclusive to some younger digitized generation; the political classes in the US have been using the news media to talk at each other instead of with each other for some years. We see this on C-Span when we compare the activity at the British Parliament, where active debate in a packed house is the norm, to the US Congress where a single Legislator stands before a empty house, speaking fervently to a set of cameras on entering a position into the Congressional Record before returning to the fund-raising treadmill.

Any Ever (2011) installation view, courtesy MOCA, North Miami.

We also see a parallel form of self-absorption, one that easily goes to a level that is anti-social compared to past norms, in the reality TV shows:  Characters vie for center stage by out-doing each other in advancing their individual agenda at the expense of others’ ‘agendas’ to the end that a character whose social life, jewelry, nails, hair, or simply noise, triumphs over her competitors, wins. Has the culture of individuality, of self-aggrandizement, of capitalism itself, finally trumped the fundamental reasons people form societies in the first place: to advance collective gains more successfully and to protect the weak and vulnerable? It feels more like once you’ve had 15 minutes of fame, or made your first million, that the only thing worth doing is to start working on the next. Whatever the case, and whether or not TV and social media (or contemporary art for that matter) are accurate reflections of current social mores, Trecartin’s videos seem to have focused on a tendency to be self-absorbed and self-aggrandizing in a way that resonates.

Watching his hyper-energized players competing over cameras and microphones the realities of war for profit, mass unemployment and home foreclosures don’t come immediately to mind, but the bankruptcy of self-absorption is now central to so much of our culture that it seems only right that so much talent has gone into creating art that is so fundamentally about this contemporary trend[.]

The presentation of Any Ever at MOCA, North Miami was coordinated by MOCA’s Associate Curator, Ruba Katrib.

The seven videos in the exhibition Any Ever can be seen in their entireties on Vimeo.

This post was contributed by David Rohn

The Museum of Contemporary Art is located at 770 NE 125th Street, North Miami, Florida.  For information, please call 305.893.6211 or visit  Museum hours are:  Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday from 11 am to 5 pm; Wednesday from 1 pm to 9 pm; Sunday from noon to 5 pm.  MOCA is also open on the last Friday of each month from 7 – 10 pm.


Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Too Much Information… Ryan Trecartin’s ‘Any Ever’