Though watching Ryan Trecartin’s films aren’t entirely a waste of time, it sure feels that way at the time. The hyper-intense mix of screeching voices, messily-costumed performers and banal scenarios come across like a reality tv show of drag queens on crack.
Ryan Trecartin, Still from A Family Finds Entertainment, 2004. Image: kera.org
Watch one of Trecartin’s videos on Youtube, HERE.
The videos on view at Toronto’s Power Plant (until May 24, 2010 – click HERE) reminded me of the at-first-hideous-but-in-hindsight-kind-of-brilliant film Idiocracy, “about the demise of North American civilization. America, 500 years into the future, has become a place where advertising, commercialism, and cultural anti-intellectualism run rampant resulting in a uniformly stupid human society.” (Thanks, Wikipedia – and Jennifer)
Jean-Michel Basquiat, In Italian, 1983. Image: brooklynmuseum.org
The Power Plant calls Trecartin ‘the American wünderkind’ and sure, the editing is sophisticated and there’s something enjoyable about the snappy pace of the works, but it’s unclear why, exactly they deserve our time. Is the point to dull the viewer into submission? Wouldn’t it be more interesting to make the viewer feel? Or think? The effect of watching these works does have a po-mo feel of absurdity and dis-engagement that feels strikingly of-the-moment, but is unsurprising coming from an artist born in the 1980s.
The works just seem so self-indulgent.
A still from Pipilotti Rist’s video Open My Glade. Image: canadianart.ca
On the other hand, maybe Trecartin is capturing the feel of his generation the way that the young Jean-Michel Basquiat did of his. It’s easy to see, in hindsight, how successful Basquiat was at committing the energy of the downtown New York art and music scene directly to canvas.
Perhaps Trecartin is doing the same? Perhaps. But Trecartin uses video without the sophistication of artists like Kalup Linzy or the excellent Swiss artist Pipilotti Rist, who also makes silly, seemingly non-sensical, but incredibly well-considered work.
Kalup Linzy as one of his performance characters of myriad gender identities. Image: burnaway.org
Rist has said: “I’m a typical child of television. I know the feeling when you can no longer tell the difference between what you saw in the afternoon in the forest and later on in television.”
Trecartin, seemingly knows that same feeling. But does he articulate it well enough?
VoCA remains, so far, unconvinced. Your thoughts?