Tuesday, May 25, 2004

640 480 at Zsa Zsa - N. Post May 22, 2004

Just as video becomes a technological has-been, in comes a group of young artists putting a whole new spin on the dying medium. 640 480 is a local collective that prides itself in being video-based, but always with a twist in finding new ways of expanding on the little black box’s physical limitations. In other words, they cook up weird ways of making art objects out of video. Their past non-video videos have included constructing a video-formatted etch-a-sketch, and interpreting taped sequences as magazine spreads (watch for this one in an upcoming issue of Rojo).

But their latest adaptation is by far more ambitious in scale and meaning than anything they have done since forming as a six-member group three years ago. At the storefront gallery space, Zsa Zsa, they have installed a computer-automated embroidery machine and programmed it to stitch a replica of every frame of a one-minute video. In total the machine will pump out over 900 embroidered patches, each measuring 7-by-10-inches, and at a rate of just under two hours of stitching per patch. If the task is completed by the end of the show’s run (and they doubt it can be done) it will take 1,800 hours to stitch a cinematic sequence that is barely as long as a TV commercial.

Yes, futility is part of the theme of this captivating, energy wasting, trance-inducing gizmo installation. But there is poetry in its understated commentary. The project is all about trying and failing to keep pace with new technology, and the awkwardness of adaptation.

The embroidery machine doesn’t exactly replace the old hand-stitching grandma used to do. It’s the kind of embroidery you see on sports team jerseys, which has none of the built-in sincerity that comes with homespun stitching. Suddenly, video and embroidery share common ground--they’ve both fallen prey to the cool hand of technology. Embroidery is a completely hands-off machine-made process. Videos, meanwhile, were fine till DVDs came along and increased pixel resolution to a point of surreal sharpness. All the rough and shaky edges beloved by video-philes — gone! Engineers of advancement always pick heartlessly at the spirit of the old — vultures!

Which brings us to the subject matter 640 480 decided was worthy of their 10-day embroidery marathon: A manipulated version of a National Geographic classic where vultures and hungry coyotes are seen devouring something large and freshly killed on a barren African plane. The large, dead something has been replaced with the body of one of the collective’s members, Gareth Long. Long is seen lying prostrate, covered in A1 Steak Sauce and raw meat, and, with some computer editing, it appears he’s being chewed to the bone -- a not-so understated commentary on artistry expiring along with technical obsolescence.

"I started looking into the history of embroidery," says Long explaining how the vulture-theme came about. "I found that embroidery wasn’t just decorative. It was used to commemorate historic events." In fact embroidered histories were called "samplers" and they were like documents, passed from one generation to the next. Using an artist as safari kill for their video embroidery, Long and the collective rationalized, made great symbolic sense, a clear representation of all things that fade away and with barely a trace.

True Love Will Find You in the End may very well be an epitaph for the dying days of video cassettes, but it’s also a R.I.P. for embroidery’s former role as a recorder of history. "The lack of funeral rites," says Long, while an image of his body being picked cleaned by giant hungry birds loops behind him, "it’s the ultimate loneliness, when no one notices something is gone." -- Catherine Osborne

True Love Will Find You in the End is by the 640 480 Video Collective and curated by Emelie Chhangur. On view at Zsa Zsa, 962 Queen Street West until May 30. An installation webstream can be seen at: AGYU. Embroidered patches: $100 (or less).

Kristine Moran at Angell Gallery - N. Post May 22, 2004

Girls, it seems, just want to drive fast cars. And smash them up in a blaze of smoke and fire. Kristine Moran, whose disaster paintings depict flying cars spinning out of control, or careening into the windows of skyscrapers or exploding into turbo fireballs, have been popping up over the past year along with the Queen West strip and with lots of whispered approval. Trip Wire at Angell Gallery is her first solo.

There are eight super-charged paintings in the exhibition, all easy on the eyes in a cartoon animation sort of way. But Moran’s skillfully combines high-end design colouring (lifted right from the internet) as her resource for glossy enamel background shades, and thick oil painting that been smeared on expertly with the palette knife.

Weirdly, there is nothing sinister about Moran’s futuristic car accidents (plus one train derailment and a dent-free Lamborghini). They have a Bruce Willis action movie zip to them, and the architectural environments they cruise through are courtesy of the great futurist architecture of our time including Moshe Safdie’s Habitat and Delugan Meissl’s Haus Ray I.

Moran’s been a part-time airline stewardess for the past eight years while a student at OCAD (she graduate’s this month). But she swears there no direct connection between flying the airways and car crashing other than her fascination for speed and what urban theorist Paul Virilio’s has called "dromology," or the idea that science and technology evolution only happens when there’s an accident that needs fixing. Strong paintings for a painter just out of art school. --CO

Kristine Moran's Trip Wire runs until June 12 at Angell Gallery 890 Queen Street West.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

Definition of (S)lacker (A)rt

I'm putting this out there: I've been thinking about the term "slacker art" for quite a while, because it gets used a lot but doesn't really seem to have any specific definition. Recently I read an article on the Armoury Show and the writer refered to "slacker art of the 1990s." Does that mean slacker art is over? I've emailed a few people (Robert Atkins of Artspeak, Jerry Saltz of the VV, and Wordspy) to see if there is any fixed definition for slacker art. It seems to me that there should be, especially if it's a genre that's passed.

I'm opening this one up, gentle readers. Here are a few questions:

1. How would you define slacker art?

2. Do you recall when/where you first heard the expression? Or when you first used it? I'm curious to know when the term started to appear (and by who) if at all possible.

3. What artists do you consider slacker artists?

A few things about slacker art:
* It was likely adapted from Robert Linklater's film Slacker, released in 1991
* Slacker as a singular noun is not defined in most dictionaries.
* Other slacker expressions: slacivism (from wordspy), slackcom (wordspy), 13th generation (wordspy), Generation X (D. Coupland), Loserdom (in reference to David Kramer's work).