Cory Arcangel Exhibition and Interview
Bill Clinton, Kelly Clarkson and some piano-playing cats.
From hacking archaic video games to autotuning classic folk songs, the diffuse work of New York digital artist, composer and programmer Cory Arcangel offers a hilarious re-imagining of ageing technology and culture. His latest show, Speakers Going Hammer (a phrase that describes speakers pushing too much bass) opens at the Lisson Gallery in London tomorrow. Works featured include a three-series of identical graphite drawings of palm trees, a portrait of Bill Clinton and a nineties Ford Taurus station wagon, created using a now-obsolete pencil-plotter machine initially programmed by Arcangel quickly drawing onto a digital pad, and 'Since U Been Gone' is a series of 14 prints that trace a genealogy of the song 'Since U Been Gone' by Kelly Clarkson. The exhibition highlights the increasingly brief lifespans of technology, fashion and media, blending high and low production techniques in the creative process.
We decided to revisit Oyster issue #86, in which Dan Rule spoke with the artist about how he turned his hobby into art, as well as the meaning behind it all:
Cory Arcangel isn't one for stretching or meditation. Pilates is, most definitely, not part of the routine. The New York artist achieves his inner peace via rather unconventional means. "Oh man," he sighs, almost wistfully, "I just love to computer program." For the 31-year-old, chatting over the phone from his studio, the hard drive is his temple. "There's nothing I love better than to sit down at night and write some code. It's kind of like yoga to me, like this strange way to activate your brain," he pauses, mulling over the thought. "It's about everything and nothing, you know, all at once."
Arcangel is an anomaly in a contemporary art world obsessed with the cult of the new. In a career that has stretched the best part of a decade, he has garnered one of art's most singular reputations for a practice that ostensibly takes the form of a kind of recycling; the relics of digital culture are his pixelated muse.
Drei Klavierstucke op. 11 (2009). Video stills courtesy of the artist.
Working across video, music, animation and software manipulation, the classically-trained composer and self-taught computer programmer has crafted original artworks out of some of the most iconic recent cultural ephemera. Pieces like his famed 2002 Nintendo cartridge hacks 'Mario Brothers Clouds' and 'I Shot Andy Warhol', not to mention 2006 composition 'The Bruce Springsteen Born to Run Glockenspiel Addendum', have collectively helped make Arcangel one of the most revered pop-cultural appropriators going around. "I guess I like to experiment with the different ways that the work can disperse both inside and outside of general culture," he offers. "Sometimes, people might not even know that something I've done is an art project. It's essentially just some software that I've made that people use."
Indeed, for Arcangel, who grew up in the industrial city of Buffalo in western New York State, the joy is less about what he can create than its potential points of re-engagement with a variety of audiences. "With my cat video [Arcangel's 2009 video reinterpretation of late Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg's legendary Drei Klavierst