BY Graham T. Beck in Reviews | 01 OCT 09
Featured in
Issue 126

Arcangel, Pinard, Routson

Team Gallery, New York, USA

BY Graham T. Beck in Reviews | 01 OCT 09

'Arcangel, Pinard, Routson', 2009, installation view

Team Gallery’s mid-summer offering, ‘Arcangel, Pinard, Routson’, was as siloed a presentation as the show’s title: Cory Arcangel, Guillaume Pinard and Jon Routson – three new media artists from the gallery’s roster – on display together, separated by punctuation, without a conjunction to offer a through-line. One of Arcangel’s colour gradient C-type prints, Photoshop CS: 84 by 66 inches, 300 DPI, RGB, square pixels, default gradient “spectrum”, mousedown, y=8900 x=15,600, mouse up y=13,800 x=0 (2009), greeted gallery visitors with the presence of a colour-field painting and the look of a photocopier logo. The piece is at once as straightforward as the list of step-by-step instructions for its production that make up the work’s cryptic title, and as complicated as a fluid spectrum composed of fixed pixels.

Next to it teetered Routson’s Book Club (2009), a set of public address speakers mounted near the top of a two-metre wooden post held upright by a Christmas tree stand. Routson’s voice oozed out of the speakers as he read from one of a handful of popular novels – these homemade audiobooks transformed the usually silent and almost always privately consumed experience of paperback fiction into public events. This is a road Routson has travelled before: his bootleg movies from the early 2000s – handheld camera recordings of movie theatre screenings shown in galleries – have a similar trajectory, but here the medium’s passivity and the matter’s legality are far less buzz-worthy.

Pinard’s 15-minute Flash animation Provisional End (2006) skips with surreal logic through a Tom and Jerry-style chase starring a stork and a fly. It would have been as comfortable on MTV’s groundbreaking 1990s animation showcase Liquid Television as it was projected on the wall at Team Gallery in 2009; a vast difference between audiences and intentions that Pinard seems decidedly uninterested in exploring. Another of Arcangel’s c-type prints; Routson’s Spinners (2009), a series of unsettling circular images (Sarah Palin, an iPod box, Dick Cheney, Terri Schiavo, a two-faced cat) projected and set to turn in place; and two more of Pinard’s Flash animations – one short and to-the-point, the other a rambling narrative – filled the rest of the gallery’s space relating to one another through little more than proximity.

In the video room, Arcangel’s Drei Klavierstücke, op. 11 (Three Piano Pieces, 2009) marked the end of a Tourettic journey through the work of Team’s new media artists, and it did so as conclusions often do: with a feeling of coherence that could be from content and context merely coming at the end, or a combination of the three. By editing YouTube clips of cats playing the piano into an arrangement of Arnold Schoenberg’s seminal atonal work Drei Klavierstücke, op. 11 (1909), Arcangel tied his practice, and with it the entire exhibition, to a kind of systematic exploration that uses new media as a tool. ‘Digital work opens doors’ it seemed to say, and with that statement, Pinard’s audience-straddling videos, Routson’s replayed recordings and Arcangel’s pedagogic presentations were able to find some common ground, or at least a reason to be in the same room.

Graham T. Beck is a writer and critic based in New York, USA.