Get it? An Interview with Cory Arcangel on Comedy

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Humor has been a prominent but under-analyzed aspect of art in the past century; the comedy impulse is strongest in the history of media appropriation and conceptual art, beginning with Duchamp's poker-faced readymades and continuing through the work of Bruce Conner, Andy Warhol, Dara Birnbaum, Ant Farm, Jeff Koons and many others. Even the very way we talk about art overlaps with laff-lingo: we call certain pieces "one-liners," value work for being "wry" or "witty," and discuss whether or not a viewer "gets it." And of course, one of the first things someone will ask who doesn't "get it" is: "Is this supposed to be a joke?"

Cory Arcangel's work has almost always played on the logic of the joke in its construction: witness his most recent exhibit, "Adult Contemporary" at Team Gallery, which includes work like Self Playing Sony Playstation 1 Bowling (2008), an old bowling game hacked to only throw gutter-balls, and Permanent Vacation (2008 version), two silver iMacs set to email each other and exchange "out of office" messages until they fill up and crash. But the line between comedy and art more or less dissolved in Arcangel's related event at the New Museum's New Silent Series, Continuous Partial Awareness. In this stand-up-style routine, Arcangel performed an hour-long monologue by reading off a huge list of his unused ideas for new artworks, ranging from "give a boring artist's talk entirely through a vocoder" to "have intern watch Lawnmower Man 10,000 times and then make a website about all the plot inconsistencies."

At the very real risk of ruining humor by critiquing it, Cory and I meet recently to discuss the relationship between comedy and art in both his work and that of others. - Ed Halter

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Various Shreds (2007) - Santeri Ojala (St Sanders)

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Santeri Ojala (St Sanders) Homepage

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DAY OF SHREDS

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Shreds are a genre of YouTube videos in which the creator dubs their own solos over a videotaped performance of an original band or musician. Similar to karaoke, the videos poke fun and attempt to undermine the talent or celebrity aura of the musician through their own amateurism. Some of these videos are really quite perceptive and brilliant, and through their humor, present a pointed response to popular culture, fame, and rock stardom. Today we will be posting up select shred videos as well as art projects that are inspired by this genre.

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Interview with Lisi Raskin

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Now that progress is as predictable as an automatic software update or higher resolution in a camera phone, the idea that technological advancement holds the key to a better future -- and the fear that it could be abused as a tool of world domination -- seem like quaint relics of the 1950s and '60s. Lisi Raskin's exaggeratedly ragged, hand-crafted reconstructions of military command centers evoke the thrall such spaces held over the public imagination during the Cold War even as they reinforce the contemporary viewer's distance from that feeling of awe. Over the past year, Raskin's installations on this topic have surfaced in several locations as stages of an ongoing project titled Mobile Observation. This year's incarnations began with Command and Control, an installation at the Park Avenue Armory in February, and continued with Mobile Observation (Transmitting and Receiving) Station at Bard College's Hessel Museum of Art, for which she embarked on a road trip to military sites across the United States and sent back materials to be exhibited. Mobile Observation will peak on Friday with Tipping Point, a performance at the opening of "Soft Manipulation" at Casino Luxembourg, where the resulting carnage will remain on view through the exhibition's run. Here Raskin, who works at studios in Brooklyn and Oakland, California, discusses her newest work and how it represents a change in her perception of Cold War mythology.

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Wafaa Bilal Talk at EFA Project Space Tonight

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Artist Wafaa Bilal will speak at the EFA Project Space tonight at 7pm. Bilal made headlines earlier this year when Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's administration pulled the plug on the exhibition of his project exploring identity and propagandist video games The Night of Bush Capturing: A Virtual Jihadi. Bilal then moved the show to the Sanctuary for Independent Media, at which point the city of Troy promptly responded by shutting down the space due to minor infractions. (The short documentary Art Does Not Equal Terrorism follows the entire fiasco.) Tonight Bilal will turn his attention to a previous project from 2007, Domestic Tension, in which he stationed himself for 31 days as a moving target for a robotic paintball machine controlled by users over the internet. Born and raised in Iraq, Bilal's work often deals with the tension involved in belonging to two opposing territories, the United States and his native country. Journalist David Gargill will moderate the discussion.

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Death Animations (2008) - Brody Condon

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Image: Stills from "Death Animations" video

Performance, 3 hours
Machine Project, Los Angeles

Statement: Inspired by Bruce Nauman's 1973 work "Tony Sinking into the Floor, Face Up and Face Down", 9 dancers outfitted in fantasy armour recreated his performance in slow motion combined with movements based on computer game death animations, this piece was accompanied by a high volume binaural beats reputed to induce out of body experiences. Closely linked to his past process of modification of existing computer games, as well as performative events with medieval re-enactment and fantasy live action role playing subcultures, Death Animations is a re-interpretation of the Nauman work through the lens of "New Age" ideas of astral projection and out of body experience, computer games, and recent foreign conflict.

View video of the performance

More work by Brody Condon

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My House is a Videogame (2007) - Nate Hitchcock

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More work by Nate Hitchcock

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The Real McCoys

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Jennifer and Kevin McCoy are a married couple of New York-based artists whose collaborative work conveys a love of film and televised narratives. Their early projects embodied database aesthetics as they chopped shows like 8 is Enough, Kung Fu, and Starsky and Hutch into short clips, often inviting viewers to rearrange them according to what we'd now call metadata. For instance, one could choose from a bank of DVDs in their Every Shot, Every Episode to watch every occurrence of the color blue, or of extreme close-ups. More recent works have entailed building elaborate miniature film sets, complete with working cameras, to shoot microfilms. In the case of High Seas, the set is a sort of kinetic sculpture in its own right, mimicking its subject as it moves around to create shots of the famed Titanic loosing its footing on the ocean. The role of filmic media in mythologizing the ill-fated boat is of course implicit in the installation. While these projects have always been infused with a sense of subjectivity, as the artists perform their fandom through their selective decisions, lately their work has incorporated more explicitly autobiographical elements. Their piece, Our Second Date, for instance, is a miniature movie set which features the artists watching the film from their second date, Weekend, reenacted through a mobile sculpture and video streamed live to a tiny screen. The choice to position themselves as spectators within their own reality, and moreover to confess that their romance budded around screen pleasure opens up a number of interpretations of their ongoing work and paves the way to their newest project, which opens November 22nd at Postmasters Gallery. In I'll Replace You, the artists again place themselves at center stage, without stepping in front of the camera. Instead, a series of different ...

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Experimental Philosophy Demo (2008) - Ben Coonley

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Artist's Statement: A video demonstration of a classic Experimental Philosophy experiment on "The Concept of Intentional Action" (AKA the "Knobe Effect"). Comedian Eugene Mirman narrates.

More work by Ben Coonley

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A Machine Project Field Guide to LACMA Tomorrow

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Machine Project's Mark Allen discussed their massive undertaking in an interview Rhizome published last week, but in case you missed it, this Los Angeles interdisciplinary non-profit arts organization will be taking over LACMA tomorrow for a full 10 hours. With over 60 separate projects, the program is ridiculously elaborate, so I suggest you view the full schedule here. Let's see...the Center for Tactical Magic will exhibit their wand collection, Lewis Keller will do live remixes of LACMA's air conditioning system, Walter Kitundu and Robin Sukhadia will play tabla within Richard Serra's sculpture, one workshop will invite visitors to make replicas from the Classical sculpture collection using the museum's trash, while another will crochet birds to accompany Chris Burden's Urban Light....This is going to be awesome. I mean, a few weeks ago they were auditioning for the "ultimate black/speed/grind/doom metal guitarist" to perform hourly under a gothic arch viewable from LACMA for the project. Seriously -- so cool! I wanna go!

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