July 5, 2022

I Sing the Gadget Electronic

“I like to get old stuff working again,” Mr. Arcangel said with a nod toward the ungainly machine, which occupied a long table by a dusty boom box and a basket filled with smashed soda cans. This particular pen plotter had given him trouble, he said. Searching in vain for discontinued parts, he’d lobbed a last-ditch call at the product’s manufacturer. “They just laughed at me,” he said.

Mr. Arcangel typed a code into his keyboard and pressed “enter.” The pen plotter hiccupped, then started printing. At the sight of the tree trunk, Mr. Arcangel clasped his hands together and said, “Cool, huh?”

Mr. Arcangel, 32, is known for work that imports a sense of humanity into the technological realm, in part by making sure the technology it uses is never too slick. Unlike electronic media artists who rely on state-of-the-art equipment to make their work, Mr. Arcangel collects outmoded computer games, decrepit turntables and similar castoffs that pile up in Dumpsters and thrift stores or are posted on eBay whenever a fresh crop of gadgets has rendered them obsolete. Through a bit of ingenious meddling, he reboots this detritus to produce witty, and touchingly homemade, video and art installations.

At the 2004 Whitney Biennial, he hacked into Nintendo’s decades-old Super Mario Bros. game, removing its characters and leaving only its signature cartoon clouds edging across the horizon, to the accompaniment of its bleeping music. For a 2008 piece, “The Bruce Springsteen Born to Run Glockenspiel Addendum,” Mr. Arcangel taught himself to play the glockenspiel, then re-recorded Mr. Springsteen’s “Born to Run” LP onto vinyl, adding an original glockenspiel track to songs on the album that didn’t already include the instrument. In yet another witty ploy, he dubbed one of his favorite films, “Dazed and Confused,” with Indian-accented voices, using a recorded script reading he’d outsourced to a call center in Bangalore.

“Cory is one of the first in a young generation of digital hackers to really enter the art world,” said Barbara London, associate curator of media and performance art at the Museum of Modern Art, who has included Mr. Arcangel’s video works in several shows. “Now the boundaries between art forms are dissolving, and working digitally is just normal practice. But Cory was among the first. I think that’s really important.”

Mr. Arcangel has had a recent spate of museum solo shows, at the Hamburger Bahnhoff in Berlin, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami, the Barbican Center in London and now, finally, the Whitney. His potent mix of bottoms-up humor and technical wizardry has clearly struck a cultural nerve.

Mr. Arcangel’s art can conjure the video installations of Bruce Nauman or even the painted abstractions of Ellsworth Kelly or Mary Heilmann. His reprogrammed computer games bear the imprint of so-called appropriation artists, like Richard Prince and Jack Goldstein. And his do-it-yourself, jerry-built sensibility owes a debt to punk.

But it’s his fascination with the gadgetry that has shaped our lives for decades that really drives his work. And this fascination has a dark side.

For the most prominent installation in the Whitney show, for example, Mr. Arcangel has programmed a series of video bowling games from the 1970s to 2000 to throw only gutter balls. The graphics for the games he uses grow increasingly sophisticated over time. But in the end, according to Christiane Paul, the Whitney’s adjunct curator of media artists, and the “Pro Tools” organizer, “what Cory’s work does is really highlight what expectations we have of technology, and how those expectations are repeatedly frustrated.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=6ef8fe79f3e7419a999166f10a3d1868

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