DETORIORATION, THEY SAID brings together four US-based positions from a generation embarking on its thirties. The title of the exhibition refers to a set of artworks that articulate entropic effects without referring explicitly to process. Curated by Raphael Gygax, the works by these artists investigate a consumerist modernism-obsessed Western culture with an unmistakably loud and colorful under-belly.
In Shana Moulton’s video series, Whispering Pines (2002–), three of which are on display here, fictional protagonist Cynthia looks to cleanse her soul with the help of a facial mask. She applies the product smoothly to her skin, and then she eats it. In her mania for rapid purification, Cynthia turns the cleansing ritual into its absurd opposite. Moulton’s investigations of consumerism come in the context of New Age philosophy, exemplified by the artist’s preference for esoteric furniture, clothes and jewelry. All of the artists approach contemporary social phenomena through a committed reversal of the category of kitsch as a measure of social etiquette, using a deliberately low-tech aesthetic of bright colors, cheap materials, low-res video imagery, and a psychedelic, highly performative formal vocabulary.
Most of the works here are video, with a strong emphasis on bleeding the screen into its context: Moulton’s Whispering Pines are installed in such sculptures as a peach-colored labyrinth and a dark-blue pyramid. Land art is doubly punned for its imbrication of content and frame, and its subsequent pantheism. Paper Rad, the Providence-based outfit founded in 2000 by Ben Jones and Jessica and Jacob Ciocci, who see an ecstatic, post-medium profusion in technological forms. A site-specific installation covers the walls, floor and furniture with hand-drawn pixels, and a display installation made with colored foil and colored rugs. Jessica Ciocci meticulously cuts the materials into thousands of tiny, modular squares. Their use of repetitive patterns papering the museum integrates themes of the series into the popular vocabulary of music.
Music recurs in Cory Arcangel’s two-channel video installation a couple thousand short films about Glenn Gould (2007) rearranges Johann Sebastian Bach’s famous Goldberg-variations from over thousand sequences of short clips collected on YouTube showing amateur musicians playing their instruments at home. The double projection, each of which show a short sequence of home videos featuring amateur musicians playing a bass or violin line, is a hysterical kaleidoscope of the most varied musical instruments and practices that it breaks off into the visuals of overstimulation. It also comes to look like a Flicker experimental film (not referring to the web photo service. The ambivalence of the artists here is both historically minded and completely ecstatic, without about perception and consumerism can be found in each of the four positions in the show. Creatively consuming the picture flood that has surrounded them since early adolescence, DETERIORATION is meant as a generation-defining genre that mutates
decadence into a fluid state of spiritualism. It’s loud, but will it be heard?
DETERIORATION… THEY SAID is on view through November 8. migros museum für gegenwartskunst is located at Limmatstrasse 270, Zurich.