Rapid technological advancement over the last decade has produced an immense number of instruments for recording and replaying images and sounds. The exhibition Cory Arcangel vs. Pierre Bismuth at Team Gallery (through December 23) employs different technological instruments (some obsolete, others state-of-the-art) as both media and content. The placement of these disparate technologies in the same space, while incongruous, underlines a fact of life today: technological advancement leaves a vast amount of detritus in its wake. As obsolescence happens ever more quickly, we increasingly use and experience the world through objects that are no longer up to date. The two artists live on different continents and are of different generations, but are each represented by the gallery. Their exhibition contains three works by Arcangel (selected by Bismuth), three by Bismuth (selected by Arcangel), and a collaborative work. This curatorial platform echoes a sentiment discernible in the works themselves: in an age increasingly shaped by technology, a human element persists. Bismuth’s “Redeemed” (2011) consists of four basic abstract forms, each made from assorted tubes of discarded neon, which were collected by Arcangel. The glowing, gently curving wall-hung sculptures light the gallery after being rescued from either destruction or more conventional commercial uses.
The show’s success hinges more on its overall effect than on individual works. Some are quite restrained in their conceptual gestures. On the other hand, Arcangel’s video “There’s always one at every party” (2010) tracks a joke about coffee table books through various episodes of Seinfeld in a manner that comes across as amateur in comparison to works like Christian Marclay’s 24-hour video montage “The Clock.” An unrelated piece by Bismuth, “Proposal for an Improbable American TV Program - Part II - Seinfeld” (2007), also takes Seinfeld as its subject matter, inserting so many layers of laugh track over the sitcom’s dialogue that it becomes incomprehensible. Each of these works is more trite than spontaneous; their laugh tracks substitute for the playful humor elsewhere in the exhibition.
However, the show’s spirit holds steadfast in Arcangel’s “Various Books/Various Scents” (2011), which contains an unlikely assortment of books sprayed with celebrity-endorsed scents. As if browsing a hybrid of Barnes & Noble and Sephora, viewers can pick up Punk 365 to smell Hannah Montana’s Ready to Rock or The Originality of the Avant-Garde and Other Modernist Myths by Rosalind Krauss to smell Queen Latifah’s Queen. This show demonstrates, both on the whole and through its perfume-scented books, that conventional notions of the avant-garde—whether technological or artistic—are bunk. Here, art lies in the playful use and interpretation of cultural and material detritus.
(Courtesy of Team Gallery, New York)