Cory Arcangel (beige) Request for comments

Artvehicle 26/Review

6th October 2007 — 16th December 2007

There's an echoing bombardment of fireworks outside, lighting up the horizontal window slots of the Max Wigram Gallery. For a moment, it's like being in one of those wartime bunkers that dot the Atlantic coast. Within, nearly drowned out by a looped guitar riff somewhere in the background, a familiar, intermittent, tone. One that's universally awaited, that usually quickens the heart.

'Permanent vacation', is a mess of computer gear and, projected large, two Outlook Express inboxes side by side. Phyllis's receives Craig's out of office reply and mails one back, etc. Their failed relationship is slowly, symmetrically perpetuated. How long, though, before the Viagra merchants intervene?

In the past, Cory Arcangel has put his hacking skills to customising outmoded game programmes. He is still concerned with the tyranny of hi-tech corporations over modern life, and how creative technology subjugates those that use it, from the ubiquity of its stylistic impositions to the built-in obsolescence that ensures the redundancy of the work that has been created on it. This time he professes to have conceded defeat to the enemy, but there's a cheeky twinkle in his eye. On the face of it this show rubs our faces in a series of factory settings and defaults: all style and no content, except, in some cases, there's no content or style. 'Structural Film' uses the i-movie scratch application, designed to make home videos look like aging celluloid. He hasn't added any images though. It's been transferred to film, which loops endlessly through a projector. The sequence became corrupted somewhere along the line; stray pixels dance around the screen, the digital equivalent of hairs in the gate. The effect is a reminder of Harmony Korinne's use of digital zoom to add grain to his footage. The little gremlins were a lucky mistake, Arcangel claims. Whatever, they neatly complete the piece.

'Monochrome' features more technology that's been short circuited. The artist has scratched the glass of a computer scanner, and painted the screen blue. The resulting scan has been blown up enormously, a mottled print that is difficult to make out in the gloom of the gallery. On the floor, the abused scanner sits on its packaging. The punch line of the piece is explained by the enthusiastic invigilator. The paint is a designer brand with a ridiculous moniker. 'New York Loft', or something.

'Plasma Screen Burn' is a cautionary tale for those who record Countdown, forgetting they've still paused it when they pop out to the petrol station for some chocolate. When they return from the four day drinking bender with the old friend they bumped into on the way they'll find FAJWESXOP and the ghostly silhouette of Carol Vorderman irreparably etched upon the inside.

Rock provides the show's subplot. The repeated guitar riff, rather annoying by now, belongs to Guns'n'Roses. This is the most conventional piece in the show, and its link with the other pieces seems rather tenuous, but does provide more chuckles. It consists of two identical loops of video, one slightly shorter than the other, that drift in and out of synch in a 17 minute cycle. The sequence itself is very short, taken from a band promo. Its brevity reduces Slash's rock posturing to hammy preposterousness.

A stack of CDs in a tower just about steers the rock element back to the main premise of the show. Arcangel has recorded Bruce Springsteen tracks on them, with a glockenspiel accompaniment. He hopes they will spread through something napster-like and end up somewhere interesting where they shouldn't be. You can watch the artist, sporting a Metallica T shirt, plinkyplinking along to one of the tracks live but rather less masterfully on YouTube, where examples of his video game hybrids can also be found.

Four readymades are the embodiment of Arcangel's mission statement. Great splurges of primary colouration evidently dragged straight off the programme. The word 'photoshop' has been squeezed out of a virtual toothpaste tube. Yuk. 'But that's just the point', to misquote the statement. If the theory is sound, they will one day be design classics. Until then, snigger at the thought of them on a wall in a New York Loft painted in 'New York Loft'.


Max Wigram - Ridley Road
51-63 Ridley Road
London E8 2NP

Saturday-Sunday, 12pm-6pm

Cory Arcangel (beige) Request for comments —