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Kaye Cain-Nielsen: Trecartin and His Mad World

September 2, 2011

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Although it sort of hurts the mind, watching artist Ryan Trecartin’s creations elicits transcendental pain.

By **Kaye Cain-Nielsen**

kcn.jpgLast month, I sought out some calm and reflection at the Sanatorium. This month, I’m going more masochistic. One Saturday, while checking out the daytime dance party scene at MoMa PS1’s Warm Up series, I stepped into Ryan Trecartin’s world for a change of mental latitude. And given the velocity at which Trecartin’s name has become an art-world buzzword (why co-creator Fitch remains somewhat in the shadows remains unclear), this is not a trip I wanted to miss.

The frenzied scenes in Trecartin’s multi-video installation, “Any Ever,” currently up at MoMA PS1, mimic and hyperbolize social networks, reality TV, insecurity, and pre-set notions of fame and ego. Technicolor face paint makes gender and race fluid, everyone talks like automated valley-girl chipmunks on speed, and shots change faster than a thirteen-year-old can text. The effect is a dizzying, narrative-defying comment on modern human communication, identity, and collision. A motley crew of tweenagers, transvestites, twins, demons, art gods, and sadistic entertainment-world corporate types populate the color-saturated videos. The actors are child actors from Orlando, friends of Trecartin’s, and Trecartin himself, all of whom have banded together over the last two years to wreak creative havoc on various rented houses across the country.

What happens in Trecartin’s videos is almost impossible to explain, partly because they evade narrative structure and partly because visually there is just so much going on. Here’s my best guess: a hoard of business-casual clad drones in whiteface and blonde wigs have a traveling meeting / office party, chirping responses to a gender and race-bending “boss.” Soon, madness sets in and the crew smashes the furniture in the room to bits. Elsewhere, Trecartin in a red wig transforms into a demon-eyed character, and proceeds to dance and flop around, wrecking things and bleeding on IKEA furniture to the delight of a secretary or intern-type (confused yet?). Twin tweens sit on a bed, and one breaks a large clay pot without reason. A self-important businesswoman in black barks orders and threats at an invisible assistant. People fall in pools, sit in half-constructed bed frames, lounge in stark timeshares. Key words flash across the screen (in the trailer below, “@Trailer” pops up at one point), there are screens within screens, almost like being inside the internet. Characters try desperately to define and perpetuate their loose, clich&eacute- or work-based notions of identity: “I am trying really hard to be transparent,” says one of Trecartin’s invented personas. “I am really into the third world right now,” gushes another. “I can’t wait until they invent concept camo,” muses one character. I can’t wait, either.

All of the young artist’s work is online and free to the public. But if you’re in New York, it’s a mandatory hop on the seven train to Long Island City, where “Any Ever” is on view at PS1 through September 3. You’ll strap yourself into the frighteningly familiar frenzy of Trecartin’s universe with a huge pair of headphones that play a fever-pitched soundtrack of overlapped, bratty, witty, subtly brilliant dialogue. You may be tempted to look away, or to view the videos without sound. But once you start watching, it will be difficult to unplug yourself from his—or is it our—mad world. Although it sort of hurts the mind, watching Trecartin’s creations elicits transcendental pain.

ANY EVER (Trailer), Ryan Trecartin PS1 from Ryan Trecartin on Vimeo.

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Kaye Cain-Nielsen is an editorial assistant at Guernica.

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