press release


NEW YORK, June 20, 2007—Automatic Update, an exhibition of five media installations made since 2000, features works of art drawn from the technology of the last decade. Employing computers, LCD screens, DVD players, digital video, and user-activated components, works in the exhibition show contemporary artists trying their hands at a range of newly invented art forms. The artists in the exhibition, Cory Arcangel, Xu Bing, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, and Paul Pfeiffer, make comical and sometimes absurd use of recent technologies while offering lighthearted critiques of today’s society.

The exhibition is on view from June 27 through September 3, 2007, in The Yoshiko and Akio Morita Gallery on the second floor, and is accompanied by a series of related films and videos that will be screened in The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters from July 7 through September 2, 2007. Automatic Update and the accompanying film-and-video series are organized by Barbara London, Associate Curator, Department of Media, The Museum of Modern Art.

In the 1990s, artists worked in a range of newly invented art forms, often switching from analogue to digital equipment as the technology evolved. They built interactive installations and electronic publishing networks, and made art for the Internet. Technology advanced so quickly that in some cases the platform upon which an art form depended would disappear while a work was being made. By the year 2000, this quasi-revolutionary aura had dissipated, and media art had settled into the mainstream.

Ms. London says, “The wildness of the dot-com era infused media art with a heady energy. Automatic Update is about the vision of art drawn from technology of the last decade. The show features the work of hackers, programmers, and tinkerer-revisionists from North America, Europe, and Asia.”

Cory Arcangel (American, b. 1978) is known internationally for his subversive reworkings of obsolete computer systems. He participates in the artist group BEIGE and the Radical Software Group. This exhibition includes his newest work, on view for the first time, titled Two Keystoned Projectors (one upside down) (2007). It comprises a VCR (video cassette recorder) and two projectors that cast two fields of color and a channel number onto the wall. The work takes into consideration now-dated VCR technology and shows what media art might look like if the engine of consumer innovation had stalled at the development of the VCR.

Xu Bing (Chinese, b. 1955) works in a wide range of media, creating installations that question language and demonstrate how meaning and the written word can easily be manipulated. Here he presents a classroom-like installation, Book from the Ground (2007, work in progress), in which he arranges two desks and a computer against a text panel. Viewers may interact with the icons on the computer screen, using Xu’s sequences of simple images to construct “sentences” from a universal, visual language akin to hieroglyphs. Icons are ubiquitous symbols providing information without words, antidotes to misunderstanding in the enveloping sphere of world languages in the global electronic network. The work plays with the notion of the word “icon,” which in the past referred to objects of worship. Now the word refers more commonly to company logos and the thumbnail images on computer screens that are clicked to activate an application. With Book from the Ground, an ongoing project, the artist intends to foster communication through a common language of icons.

Rafael Lozano-Hemmer (Mexican/Canadian, b. 1967) develops large-scale interactive installations in public spaces, usually deploying new technologies and custom-made physical interfaces that use robotics, projections, sensors, and other electronic devices. Here he offers an interactive installation that is mounted on one wall of the gallery. Titled 33 Questions per Minute (2001–02), it consists of 21 small LCD screens linked together by cables. The cables are connected to a laptop computer that contains a grammatical software program. Viewers are invited to enter questions or words into the computer, which processes them and generates related questions on the screens at the rate of 33 per minute. Words or questions entered by viewers become part of the program’s database, expanding its vocabulary ad infinitum. The husband-and-wife team of Jennifer McCoy (American, b. 1968) and Kevin McCoy (American, b. 1967) have worked together since 1990 in video, installation, media, and performance. Our Second Date (2004), draws upon Jean-Luc Godard’s film Week End (1967), which the McCoys saw together on their second date. A tabletop installation recreates the car accident scene in Godard’s film in miniature, while six video cameras film the scene from above. The footage is processed by a computer and played back live in both small and large scale in a projection on the adjacent wall.

Paul Pfeiffer (American, b. 1966) uses video, sculpture, and photography in works that dissect the role that mass media plays in shaping public consciousness. In a series of videos focused on professional sports events—including basketball and boxing—Pfeiffer digitally removes the bodies of the players from the games, shifting the viewer’s focus to the spectators, sports equipment, or trophies won. These intimate and idealized video works are meditations on faith, desire, and a contemporary culture obsessed with celebrity. For this exhibition, Pfeiffer deals with the subject of athletic stardom in John 3:16 (2000), an LCD monitor showing a digital video loop of basketballs hovering above the hoop, gleaned from countless NBA games. The title of this work refers to a passage from the Gospel of John in the Bible: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The conjunction of this religious sentiment with professional sports, and therefore with celebrity, suggests that markers of success often substitute for traditional objects of worship.

only in german

Automatic Update
Kurator: Barbara London

Künstler: Cory Arcangel, Xu Bing, Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Jennifer & Kevin McCoy, Paul Pfeiffer