In recent weeks, I have been entertained by three hilarious film parodies, all satirically skewering the absurdity of cultural values promoted by the internet. Two are currently being shown as part of the Whitechapel Gallery’s Artist’s Film International programme which has introduced me to some terrific stuff over the past eight years of its operation .
Unfortunately the Whitechapel’s rather ramshackle approach over the past year has somewhat diminished my enjoyment. Some of their films have not been provided with English subtitles for the foreign language soundtrack. Currently their film auditorium is out of action and viewing their replacement screen in the busy foyer is a comic experience. I stood for 40 minutes watching the two films, tethered by a short headphone lead too close for comfort to the 42inch screen and having to apologise to visitors trying to squeeze past me. Had the curator given this a trial run? I guess not, otherwise they would have realised that this was not going to work. It would have been much better to show them on their website as the Lisson Gallery did for its last MI exhibition.
The Institute of New Feeling is an artists cooperative whose website- http://www.institutefornewfeeling.com/ – exploits the most tiresome visual tropes of internet advertising and through gross amplification converts them into sinister, beguiling images. They are picking up on the gloss and sheen of HD which reduces humans and machines alike to shiny hyper-real objects. The dehumanisation of bodies and the humanisation of machines is evident in their gym footage but their most startling image is of a car seat inside which a human appears to be struggling to get out.
How to properly touch a girl so you don’t creep her out? (2015) by Turkish artist Zeyno Pekünlü, has spliced together Youtube clips from the presentations of fifteen misogynistic pick-up coaches all displaying varying degrees of creepiness in their attitudes to women. This type of advice has a long pedigree. I have an Etiquette guide for Gentlemen published in 1897 which has a similar section with the sound advice: “Avoid ever the slightest appearance of trifling with a woman. A female coquette is bad enough. A male coquette should be banished from society.” What a turnaround in the last century! Pekünlü’s editing highlights the replication of the internet memes of this subculture’s values and language so that her film flows seamlessly despite the variety of the sources she has collated. The comparison provides much amusement as the different gurus sometimes urge totally contradictory seduction advice. It also points to the wider dangers of our reliance on “how-to” videos posted by self proclaimed internet experts. Pekunlu has a key attribute of the successful contemporary artist- a sensitivity to the insidious underlying values that mass media is unconsciously foisting upon us .
I originally saw Cory Arcangel’s 32 minute web browsing video, Ideas in Action (starbucks.com), at the Lisson Gallery’s August video survey exhibition reviewed on a recent post but is also viewable at www.youtube.com/watch?v=UWItpHYg_3Y. While the trend of using internet footage has been around for a while this is the first time that I have seen a video that is simply the record of a web browsing session. One’s first reaction is why not just direct us to the site itself and let us see for ourselves what has been posted. However the clever selection of pages chosen by Arcangel from the Starbucks “community” section of the site makes us reconsider the nature of late capitalism where consumers see themselves as “fans” of a particular brand with a voice that demands to be heard. Consumer feedback is just another aspect of false consciousness. This video confirmed my personal boycott of Starbucks and raised my estimation of this self proclaimed “computer-nerd” artist who seems to have an extensive repertoire of off-the-wall ideas.