“There’s lots of play on gender and sexuality,” a middle-aged British hipster explained to the two slightly uncomfortable-looking older ladies who, had this been a Monty Python sketch, would likely have been played by Michael Palin and Graham Chapman. (These were proper, offendible old ladies, not John Cleese-crazy ones.)
As the trio watched Ryan Trecartin’s CENTER JENNY, in which girls are hazed sorority-style “as girls progress from ‘basic’ to level one, level two and eventually to level CENTER” (according to press materials) from outside Lizzie Fitch’s vinyl-sided, Solo cup-strewn installation, the hipster found the end of her sentence: “It’s a mash-up of a lot of subcultures.”
Trecartin and Fitch’s “Priority Innfield” at the Zabludowicz Collection in London represents the artists’ first solo exhibition in the U.K. and reconfigures their work from the 2013 Venice Biennale for the collection’s space.
“I just hope they learn about Ryan and his world,” Anita Zabludowicz said of what she hoped British audiences take away from the show. “He’s reflective of youth culture today and that’s really present here. We don’t always understand it. He’s bringing this to a British audience and making it substance, distilling it, making it accessible to us.”
Ms. Zabludowicz, whose family helped fund the Biennale work, has been a supporter of the artists since 2009 or 2010, and when asked if she’d ever visited the set she said, yes, she’d visited Trecartin and Fitch’s home in Los Angeles, and that it’d been remarkably clean. No, never during filming. “Can you imagine?”
Her space, a 19th-century Methodist chapel, actually makes the work feel older, rather than younger by juxtaposition. Trecartin’s characters feel like demons who have taken over the place, carpeted it, and painted the walls green, placing mirrors here and there so that it looks like there are more rooms than there are. People always laugh too rarely when watching these films, but the London screening seemed particularly dry. (Though maybe you have to be American to laugh at commentary on Valley Girl squawk, drawing on passed-out people with markers, sweatshirts, prefabricated homes, and at interactions like this: “I’m a property owner? I’m a developer and I just found out they’re gonna take it away under martial law.”/”Oh no, Jenny!”)
The work also changes in London in that what was once all in one room now becomes a progression. Item Falls and CENTER JENNY greet the visitor, then in the back Junior War, which documents a prank war between the juniors and seniors at Trecartin’s high school in Ohio, and Comma Boat, in which Trecartin plays a psychotic director.
“High school really is the trigger for the rest of the work,” said Maitreyi Mahshwari, so the back room could be read as just that, a storage facility for the origins of the rest of the show. As I left, a German couple said something about it all being reminiscent of something they’d seen in Las Vegas.