Video artist Ryan Trecartin's work is intense, but in the good way. He said it makes some people anxious, but generally speaking, it's a little unnerving, a tiny bit scary, very funny, so smart, and sweetly over-stimulating. "Any Ever," his MOCA exhibit that opened last night, includes seven movies created with the help of other Miami artists, including his main collaborator Lizzie Fitch.
The 30-year-old RISD grad has already been honored as a recipient of the Jack Wolgin International Competition in the Fine Arts, received the New Artist of the Year Award at the Guggenheim Museum, awarded a Pew Fellowship, and appeared in the 2006 Whitney Biennial. The New York Times just called his work Any Ever, which is showing concurrently at MOMA's PS 1 in New York, "game-changing." It's hypnotic, and it mind-fucks. You'll love it. Read on for our Trecartin Q&A.
Cultist: You lived in Miami for a couple of years. How was your experience here?
Ryan Trecartin: I actually came down through Sylvia Cubina and Rosa de la Cruz with the Moore Space. I did a residency there. It was really awesome. It was actually the second time I did one there. After doing the residency, I just really wanted to stay and make the project a lot bigger. And we did. And we continued to live here for two years.
Where do the dialogues or monologues come from? Do they come from conversations, personal experiences, or pop culture references?
It's so blurry as to where they come from. I write scripts, and that material comes from my head, but when I'm writing a script, I'm thinking about conversations I've had. I'm thinking about different experiences I've had with not just pop culture, but culture in general.
I think about language and linguistics. I think about technology and the way it shapes, forms, and transform language. I think about all those things simultaneously. I also think about the person who might be performing the role and about how voice is used, the mentalities, the vibes, and the way people sort of paraphrase and suggest things.
It seems like everything is really nuanced; the movements are suggestive. You seem to capture a lot with a little.
That makes sense. When we're actually in acting and directing, I'll be working with a friend who's a performer, and there'll be this meeting point where there's a scripted line and then there's the script of the performance. They might be accessing some mentality that they've experienced through pop culture, but then it's meeting a script that's based on something else. So there's all these sort of pairings that aren't necessarily aligned.
With "Any Ever," were you influenced by your experience in Miami?
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Oh, yeah. We shot a lot of scenes outside at night. And I love the way a peninsula feels. I love when cities are near the ocean. I like the air here and the bilingual culture. And I definitely think that that was completely inserted into the movie as part of a character. Not necessarily as Miami as a place, but Miami as a vibe of Miami or as some sort of a haunting character.
You offer viewers a non-traditional experience by switching up the presentation of the movie. For instance, in the far room, there's a conference table where you can watch one film. Are the settings reflective of the videos?
The movies are made to be sort of native to multiple framing or exhibition spaces. So in a museum setting, it's an opportunity to create a kind of a poetic movie theater/frame or container/packaging. The seating conceptually resonates with the information or the content.
It's supposed to be a jumping off point to encourage a sort of positioning. In "Sibling Topics," there's the office chairs and that movie has a lot of themes of automation and premises within this corporate family setting that's kind of falling apart. I feel like the office chairs, though you don't see offices in that movie, it kind of inserts that sensation. Whereas in another movie, where you do see the offices in an environment that has no location, put it in front of beds, because it's like surfing through an environment that's weird. You're comforted by this non-place.
You created the music for the show?
I wrote a lot of it. Lizzie created a lot of musical supplies that I worked with, so a lot of these are collaborations with Lizzie Fitch. Some of the music I took from hotels in Miami. The Kent Hotel has a CD that plays when you go in it. I took that CD, and I reworked parts of the audio from that CD. So it's not all from scratch but a lot of it is. It's a composition.
Are you deconstructing the way conversations are held? It seems like people are doing monologues in the movies.
There's a lot of trying to occupy a space where characters are talking in first, second, and third person, all at the same time. They're talking to themselves; they're talking to culture at large; they're talking to the people in the room; and they're talking to themselves being recorded. It's supposed to occupy an expanded space, and how you want to read them. Maybe you're accessing all those levels or only one of them.
You use the Internet, like all of us, to get your work out there. Do you think you could have created this work before the Internet?
Anything that's been made after the Internet, whether you use the Internet or not, couldn't have been made before then. Things resonate through culture in a way that even if you aren't participating in that history, it's still affecting you somehow. Even a movie I've never seen is probably affecting me.
But in the earlier work, people thought it was more about the Internet than it was, and I respond to how people feel. I definitely have thought a lot more about why people feel that way, and have actually dove deeper into my relationship with that because of the response.
Is it less organic then?
It was organic, but with putting "A Family Finds Entertainment" on YouTube, people thought it was made for YouTube, when it was actually made in 2004. There's just that kind of relationship. YouTube was being conceived probably in 2004, when I was making that movie, but didn't happen until 2005.
There was something in culture where people were starting to video tape themselves like this [Trecartin gestures to take picture of himself]. Friendster and MySpace were happening. People were trying to take video online, but no one was doing it well yet.
What do you want someone who's not an art critic to take away from this show?
I hope that they have an
experience on multiple levels. A lot of
people talk about the anxiety it can cause. I hope they're also having
an enjoyable experience too, and I hope that they're having a
conceptually challenging one as well. I hope that people revisit the
work and experience it more the way they would experience media, but on a
more rigorous level.