Thursday, March 15, 2007

"Remote Control" at MoCA

Shanghai’s MoCA has a cool “new media” show up right now called “Remote Control.” It includes the work of artists from both within and without Shanghai and China.

The term “new media,” as it pertains to art, refers to an ever-changing approach to the creation of artwork that is usually based on the use of recent technology. “New media” is thus amorphous and tough to categorize or pin down. With regards to “Remote Control,” however, it is fair to say that “new media” means lights, screens, flashing stuff, and a lot of “interactive installation.”

New media shows are, in a way, fundamentally about experimentation; the point is to use new stuff. What is often most interesting, though, about “new media” art is experiencing it in the context of the contemporary art world – seeing how things are changing, what is available. But when a whole bunch of new gear is put together in an art show, the slope becomes slippery and it is easy for it to start to look like just a bunch of new gear – and not Art; the good pieces in the show get lost in the wash of cool tech.

And there are good pieces. One large video installation is an ever expanding video loop, the contents of which is made up of one second video clips that are captured when a museum-goer steps on a specially designed mat. You step on the mat, watch the big screen as a camera in front of the mat captures and relays your image, and then watch as the video continues on with your clip stored for future play. I thought of fame and celebrity and hope and desperation and Youtube.

1 comment:

Sasha said...

You make a good point about art getting lost in the wash of new gear, especially in the case of Remote Control. The flushing toilet? Pretty funny but not all that innovative. Not to say that I didn't find some of the pieces pretty fascinating, if only for their hypnotizing flashy bright lights.

I agree that the video loop was interesting but my favorite piece was definitely the flashiest of them all: Alexander Brandt's video installation titled "Brainwashing Is A Kind Of Entertainment." Probably the obvious choice considering it was almost like a theme park ride but you've got to admit that the concept was pretty cool. Basically, for those who haven't gotten a chance to check the show out, Brandt's piece looks like an oversized bundt cake made of video screens. You get inside the bundt cake and sit in a pretty comfortable arm chair and hit a big red button on your left that reads "I AGREE," to start rotating around in circles in a sea of media propoghanda. Meanwhile, a pleasant drone of music plays in the background, essentially brainwashing you by playing each picture and word for just long enough to see it but not long enough to consciously grasp it. Upon hitting the "I AGREE" button one more time a voice states, "The program has ended, you are now a good person," and the retotation comes to stop. I found myself constantly trying to make out the words and pictures to no avail, leaving the piece feeling a little bewildered but fascinated nevertheless.

Another piece that was pretty cool was one that I couldn't really find the name or artist of, just lots of signs that read "call this number to harrass these people." The people, being about 30 video clips of seemingly impoverished manual laborers from all over the world going about their daily business. As you call the number, though, they all pick up their obnoxiously loud cell phones.

I don't know if I ever felt hope or desperation but with that last piece I did feel pretty lame about myself. Don't let that deter you though, all in all it was a pretty decent showing.