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Spacex, Exeter 15/12/07 - 23/2/08
Born in 1978 and based in New York, Cory Arcangel is the kind of down-to-earth guy that still has his own MySpace site and, so I discovered, is happy to answer e-mails from fans and web-journalists alike. In fact as a 'creative hacker' and someone interested in digital technologies, he has had a presence on the web for many years.
Arcangel (his birth name) trained originally as a classical musician. It is likely that he didn't necessarily intend for his experiments with computer programming to be treated as works of visual art and be seen in art galleries, but increasingly this is what has happened. He was, for example, in the Whitney Biennial 2004, and in the intervening years has had increasing recognition across the international art-world. In Autumn 2007 he had his first one-man show in London, and this was followed in February by a show at SPACEX in Exeter.
'I shot Andy Warhol' (2002-above), the oldest work in the show, was a reprogrammed Nintendo cartridge originally containing the interactive light-gun game 'Hogans Alley'. This multi-layered work referenced the attempted assassination of Warhol by Valerie Solanas in 1968, and in two of the three levels blocky, pixilated images of Warhol are the target: whilst in a third oddly bouncing soup cans are.
All the works drew on references to other artists or art, or appropriated pre-existing works. This was especially true of the centrepiece: 'A couple thousand short films about Glenn Gould' (2007-below), which was commissioned for SPACEX, and comprised a two-screen projection entitled after a Canadian pianist famous for playing and recording Bach. Although the image spliced together 100s of clips of musicians from YouTube playing 'The Goldberg Variations', the soundtrack sounded as if it had been prerecorded, probably using MIDI by Arcangel himself: with the left hand represented on the left side and the right on the right.
'Colors' (2006-above) was a version of the Denis Hopper film from 1987, in which only the top line of pixels are visible. The soundtrack, however, was audible on headphones so that the viewer was confronted with two layers or levels of meaning that jarred tellingly against each other: on the one hand a gritty drama about LA street gangs, and on the other the more abstract and painterly image.
A similar, but more low-tech disruption of the spectacle was apparent in 'Sans Simon' (2004-above). This time Arcangel's own hands are seen willfully obscuring the face of Paul Simon as he performs the 'Sound of Silence' with Art Garfunkel. Whereas computer programming tends to be the domain of the disembodied mathematician/intellectual, there was something silly and embodied about this work that, like slapstick or clowning, made it more immediate than the others.
By way of contrast, 'Two keystone projectors' (2007-above) was more cerebral and seemed to refer to the light art of James Turrell and Robert Irwin. It used two overlapping projectors in which the usual rectangle of light had been pulled out of shape by an altering of the 'keystone' function. The result was a still and inscrutable form not unlike a luminous Italian flag.
CDs containing a rerecording of Bruce Springteen's most famous album with added glockenspiel were available at the show the_born_to_run_glockenspiel_addendum.html
SPACEX is established as one of the Southwest's most important venues for art shows. It currently has 4 rooms linked by a corridor on the ground floor that are used for exhibiting, with office and storage space in the basement. Upstairs are artist's studios.