Ryan Trecartin at Whitechapel Gallery

by Travis Jeppesen on November 8, 2008

Having sat through so much bad video art in the past, I had until fairly recently come close to giving up on the medium altogether. Lately, however, my prejudices have been dissolving, as a new generation of video artists — people like Mark Ther, Keren Cytter, and Ryan Trecartin — has been opening up possibilities of expression within the medium that don’t necessarily rely on technological wizardry. While wildly disparate in sensibility, if these three artists have anything in common besides the fact that all work in video, it is that they are not afraid to embrace theatrical conventions in their exploration of issues surrounding gender and sexuality. That they also explore these issues in a novel way — without falling back on tired theoretical conventions — is not only refreshing, but necessary.

Ryan Trecartin is showing several short videos now at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. He’s an artist who has embraced not only the gallery scene, but the Internet as well — many of his videos can be downloaded for free online. His videos are non-narrative freak-out films that attempt to capture the amplified reality of a teenage acid trip. Actors are dressed in ridiculously colorful costumes and forced to regurgitate lines that sound like they were scripted for some sort of metaphysical soap opera; think Richard Foreman crossed with the hyper-banality of some MTV reality show. Despite their apparent formlessness, the films are so interesting that you can watch them continuously and still discover hidden meanings each time. Here’s hoping we’ll be seeing a lot more of Ryan Trecartin in the future.

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