Art

Cory Arcangel and Pierre Bismuth Tag Team in Soho

Installation view of Team Gallery with work by Pierre Bismuth and Cory Arcangel (all images by the author)

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m untrusting of technology. Once, while I was in the midst of battling with a particularly stubborn printer, a good friend labeled me an “anochranistocrat.” If not true in practice, I’ve come to treasure that label, a private joke and subvocalized rebellion. Much has been written about the ways in which media and medium shape our experience from day to day. The bottom line is, we are subject at the mercy of rapidly developing technology. As consumers of information, we peer through a multitude of invisible technological filters and lenses.

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It can be unsettling to come to grips with the ways in which technology steer and affect our lives as consumers, workers and intellectual beings. When I walked into Team Gallery this week to see their current exhibition, Cory Arcangel vs. Pierre Bismuth my gut reaction was annoyance. The exhibition presents three works by each artist. Though Arcangel’s rise to fame has come somewhat immediately and unexpectedly, as a kind of young hip digital concept artist Pierre Bismuth’s 20-year career is equally concerned with technology and media. The result is seamless and startling to an admittedly backwards curmudgeon like me. The bright, splashy collection of techno-centric installation and video seems designed to confuse and cofound expectations. Though it can lead to hasty, if unfair judgment, experiences of this nature are usually, as a rule, the most rewarding.

Perhaps it is telling that both artists included Seinfeld video pieces, each created unbeknownst to the other. Bismuth’s compellation sported an increasingly loud laugh track. Across the room, a large luxury lifestyle iPod speaker features a re-edited live recording of a performance of Beethoven’s “Symphony No. 3 in E Flat Major (“Eroica”), Op. 55” by the NBC Symphony Orchestra. Arcangel took the time to re-introduce coughing sounds erased from the recording by its producers. These details in themselves are perhaps not that interesting; it is their discovery that grants them a presence.

An installation shot of the projection for the collaborative piece, "Untitled" (2008) , 1 hour 27 minutes (via teamgal.com)

In a low-lying corner Bismuth’s continuously looped film projection of MSNBC footage transposes analogue and digital technologies. The dizzying live feed reads sleepy and ineffectual in its flickering new form. In the backroom the two artists have collaborated on a film projection “Change Bulb.” Their presentation of Guy Debord’s 1973 film Société du Spectacle (Society of the Spectacle) is characteristically off-putting with its flashing “Change Bulb” notice planted squarely in the center of the screen.

Taken separately the works on display serve as mechanical contradictions, little preordained hypocrisies. Together they form a tongue and cheek ode to the confusion and silliness of our media saturated lives.

Cory Arcangel vs. Pierre Bismuth continues at Team Gallery (83 Grand Street, Soho, Manhattan) until December 23.

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