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Weekly Update – Temple Videos and This is Moscow?


This week’s Weekly has my review of Temple Gallery‘s “Mix,” and a sketch of Nick Muellner’s “Moscow Plastic Arts” at Arcadia. Here’s the link to the art page and below is the copy with some added pictures. And here’s Libby’s post on the Arcadia show.

Screen Play

We plug into electronic media (radio, TV, iPod, computer) on autopilot, like brushing our teeth. “Mix,” a video art show at Temple Gallery with work by six rising young contemporary artists–Cory Arcangel and Frankie Martin, Phyllis Baldino, Tony Cokes, Seth Price, Anri Sala and Althea Thauberger–shows that our electronic immersion is a comforting and pretty trap. (image is Anri Sala‘s piece showing a rooftop scene with a dj spinning darkly under a clear plastic tarp while overhead it looks like the siege of Bagdad is going on. The music of war? War as entertainment? It’s a chilling piece.)

Music and words drive the art. Rhythms swing from techno to blues, ballad, spoken word and, in one case, silent screen crawl read at your own rhythm. Each piece is an earnest communicator, although the message is complex and multilayered. And that’s precisely the point of all the works here: The media embed the message and you must peel the onion to get at it. (image is Phyllis Baldino‘s trippy projection of a guitar player falling apart while his music stays together in the background.)
Seth Price‘s Folk Music and Documentary captures the importance of subtext maybe better than the others. In it an alt-culture type (flannel shirt, beads, long hair) stands in front of a blue screen spouting off about globalism and culture. “Fuck hippies,” he says at one point, followed after a pregnant pause by, “I also hate punk. It’s just about fashion.” It’s a rant, delivered deadpan. I won’t give away the hidden secret, but the piece, about smoke and mirrors and the embrace of cant, is just great. (image is from Price‘s piece. Hint–you must listen very closely to what’s in the background to get the point here)
Cory Arcangel and Frankie Martin‘s 414-3-RAVE-95 combines old Nintendo graphics and techno music with the “made in the basement” affect of amateur pornos. Two actors who look like Super Mario Bros. incarnate do the pelvic thrust on electronic dance-party footpads. The dudes swagger and sneer, but they flub their one line of dialogue, which comes with a phone number on the screen: “Seriously, ladies, if any of you saw something you like, you can give us a call at 414-372-8395.” Nintendo as porn? Porn as game? What have we done to the children? (image is from the Arcangel/Martin piece)
Shoot the Singer” at the Institute of Contemporary Art in 2002 also rounded up video artists whose work comments on music and media. That retrospective looked back at 20 years of video art. “Mix” shows young artists’ continued obsession with the media and its layered meanings. The show is important viewing no matter how much or how little you’ve tuned in, turned on or dropped out. (last image is from Althea Thauberger‘s “Songstress,” in which amateur singers perform clunkily and quite imperfectly while in the all too perfect woods)

“Mix” Through Feb. 18. Temple Gallery, 45 N. Second St. 215.782.2776.


House of blues: Muellner’s photos of Moscow suggest failure on a global scale.

Sepia-toned photographs denote a world of Conestoga wagons and prerevolutionary Russian tsars. But bathe a photograph in another hue-like the purplish blue of Nick Muellner’s “Moscow Plastic Arts” series at Arcadia-and the transformation is sideways and not historical. Muellner’s photographs of a forlorn, rubble-strewn and depopulated Moscow wash the scene in twilight’s indeterminate shade of mystery. What’s evoked is neither past nor future but the today of a badly tuned TV or a Photoshop mistake. Muellner’s 20 photographs, printed on nonarchival manila tag stock, and also available free in book form, were shot on location in 2003 and 2005. Their content is generic and microcosmic (a pile of bricks, a bucket), but what’s suggested-whether intended or not-is failure on a global scale: failure of all infrastructures everywhere, failure of all urban planning, failure to create humane and beautiful spaces. Muellner’s photos are on paper that will crumble in time. But his brutal vision is universal and for the ages. (image is one of Muellner’s works. It stood out for its aqua tint. Mostly they were lavendar-tinted images.)

“Moscow Plastic Arts: Photographs by Nick Muellner,” through Dec. 18. Arcadia University Art Gallery, Spruance Fine Arts Center, 450 S. Easton Rd., Glenside. 215.572.2131.
muellner, nicholas
price, seth
sala, anri
thauberger, althea
arcangel, cory and frankie martin
baldino, phyllis