In writing, performance and visual art that incisively satirizes pop culture and the art world, Jayson Scott Musson provokes the boundaries that define cultural and racial stereotypes. His most well-known creation is the "art critic" Hennessy Youngman, whose episodic Internet talk show Art Thoughtz has become a viral video phenomenon. In the guise of Hennessy Youngman, Musson uses hip-hop vernacular to critique the exclusionary language of art discourse, hilariously pitting hip-hop and art world idioms against each other in a dual parody of cultural clichés. Engaging hybrid media and contexts, Musson uses platforms such as YouTube to circumvent traditional art institutions and reach a mass audience on his own terms.
David Wojnarowicz channeled a vast accumulation of raw images, sounds, memories, and lived experiences into a powerful voice that was an indelible presence in the New York City downtown art scene of the 1970s and '80s. Through writing, film, painting, drawing, photography, mixed-media installations, and performance, Wojnarowicz affirmed art's vivifying power in a society he viewed as alienating and corrosive, especially for those who were not part of the "pre-invented existence" of the mainstream. Using blunt symbology and graphic illustrations, he exposed what he felt this mainstream repressed: poverty, abuses of power, blind nationalism, greed, gay sex, and the devastation of the AIDS epidemic. His nihilism, however, was also infused with his celebration and empathetic documentation of the alternative histories that he witnessed and lived.
Michael Bell-Smith uses digital forms to explore contemporary visual culture and how it is mediated through popular technologies. His work often incorporates the visual vocabulary of the Internet, such as animated gifs and lo-res images, and references the aesthetics and semiotics of common computer programs such as Powerpoint and Web sites such as YouTube. Remixing and reinterpreting sources ranging from industrial videos and music clips to classic cinema and contemporary art, Bell-Smith reconsiders the cultural meaning of these materials in a "post-personal computer, post-Internet, post-Google" age.
Since 1994, the anonymous, international group of artists known as Bernadette Corporation has explored strategies of cultural resistance and détournement, appropriating contemporary entertainment modes for their own experimental purposes. From the New York-based BC fashion label, which garnered a cult following in the 1990s, and the magazine Made In USA, launched in 1999, to the collectively-authored novel Reena Spaulings (Semiotexte, 2005) and videos starring the likes of Sylvère Lotringer and Chloe Sevigny, Bernadette Corporation's interventionist projects amount to a precisely-calibrated critique of a global culture that constructs identity through consumption and branding.
Jaime Davidovich is a conceptual, video and installation artist, as well as a pioneering activist for the potential of artist-run, local cable television programming. Davidovich was a founding member of Cable SoHo (1976) and president of the Artists' Television Network (1978). His own cable access show, a weekly variety program called The Live! Show, aired on Manhattan Cable Television from 1979 until 1984. In the guise of his alter-ego, Dr. Videovich, Davidovich hosted the show, which featured performances by and interviews with art world personalities, live phone-ins and a home-shopping segment from which he sold his collection of TV-related kitsch.
The artist collective General Idea — AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal — forged a unique conceptual practice that deployed parody and irony to critique the artworld and popular media culture. In performances, installations, video, photography, prints, and editions, they explored social phenomena ranging from the production, distribution and consumption of mass media images to gay identity and the AIDS crisis. General Idea worked together from 1969 until the deaths of Partz and Zontal in 1994.
In the video works of the Los Angeles duo Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn, the artists approach the alienation and violence of contemporary American life with absurdist humor. Dodge and Kahn's collaborative, performance-based videos inhabit an urban L.A. landscape that evokes both the everyday and the post-apocalyptic. In deadpan performances and elliptical narratives, Dodge and Kahn infuse their uncanny visions of Bush's America with wit, dread and longing.
Stanya Kahn is an interdisciplinary media artist. Working primarily in video, with a practice that includes performance, writing, and photography, Kahn's work inhabits a space between fiction and document, and stems from an extensive background in live performance. Integrating the visceral and the improvised with the tightly scored and written, her work addresses issues of agency, power, and the uses and failings of language. Kahn's kinetic relationship to the performative and to humor inform a hybrid media practice infused with pop vernacular, documentary tropes and experimental film/video praxis.
Working primarily in film, video, and performance, Andrew Lampert pursues the alchemy between artist, art, and audience in a public space, especially that of cinema. A trained film archivist, Lampert combines a Duchampian attention to the gap between an artwork's private intent and public reception with an appreciation for the contingency of film as a medium, bringing unscripted and chance elements into cinema's veneer of control. Reveling in cinema as a performative environment, Lampert reclaims this space from a mass media culture to emphasize its potential for immediacy and accident.
In a multidisciplinary practice that includes videos, performances and music, Kalup Linzy creates satirical narratives inspired by television soap operas, telenovelas and Hollywood melodramas. Taking an irreverent approach to stereotypes of race, gender and sexuality, Linzy performs, most often in drag, in a series of memorable recurring roles. The artist serves as writer, director, cinematographer, editor, and actor—and, in a distinctive strategy, also voices and overdubs the dialogue of multiple characters. At once comic, raunchy and poignant, Linzy's unique narrative videos fuse theatrical intensity with melodramatic irony.
Los Angelean Cynthia Maughan produced nearly 300 videos from 1973 to 1980, creating mostly short, direct-camera performances in which she stars in scenarios borrowed from a range of cinema and television sources. The dry wit and pictorial economy of her works also shows the influence of then contemporary California artists working in video, such as William Wegman, Paul McCarthy and Martha Rosler. Absorbing Hollywood's beguiling superficiality, Maughan treats the closed-circuit camera as a two-way mirror, in which and for which she prepares her public persona.
Shana Moulton creates evocatively oblique narratives in her video and performance works. Combining an unsettling, wry humor with a low-tech, Pop sensibility, Moulton plays a character whose interactions with the everyday world are both mundane and surreal, in a domestic sphere just slightly askew. As her protagonist navigates the enigmatic and possibly magical properties of her home decor, Moulton initiates relationships with objects and consumer products that are at once banal and uncanny.
Takeshi Murata produces extraordinary digital works that refigure the experience of animation. His innovative practice and evolving processes range from intricate computer-aided, hand-drawn animations to exacting manipulations of the flaws, defects and broken code in digital video technology. Whether altering appropriated footage from cinema (B movies, vintage horror films), or creating Rorschach-like fields of seething color, form and motion, Murata produces astonishing visions that appear at once seductively organic and totally digital.
Ryan Trecartin is one of the most innovative young artists working with video today. Trecartin's fantastical video narratives seem to be conjured from a fever dream. Collaborating with an ensemble cast of family and friends, Trecartin merges sophisticated digital manipulations with footage from the Internet and pop culture, animations, and wildly stylized sets and performances. While the astonishing A Family Finds Entertainment (2005) has drawn comparisons to Jack Smith, early John Waters, and Pee-Wee's Playhouse, Trecartin crafts startling visions that are thoroughly unique.
The video works of Antek Walczak grew out of his participation in the art/fashion collective Bernadette Corporation and the late '90s downtown New York scene. Characterized by what Walczak terms a "neo-Godardian lo-fi Rousellian distracted-narrative style," these works define an early-21st-century condition, "...a passion for dead fictional substances and authentic forms, a haunted authorial voice speaking across grids of nonlinear layers, tracks, clips and timelines."