Back in 2004, few people outside a pretty insular group of new media and net artists knew the name Cory Arcangel. Then, thanks in large part to his inclusion in the 2004 Whitney Biennial, he suddenly became one of the few digital artists to legitimately cross over into the world of fine art, lauded by curators and critics alike, and inducted into the permanent collections of the world’s most prestigious arts institutions like the MoMA, the Smithsonian and the Tate. It’s fitting then, that Arcangel should return to the museum that initiated his rise to prominence in a major solo exhibition called Cory Arcangel: Pro Tools, which opened today at The Whitney.
Though Arcangel is best known for his video game hacks (Super Mario Clouds and I Shot Andy Warhol, are a few of the more recognizable ones), the exhibition spans the full range of his far-reaching digital experimentations, including: single channel video, kinetic sculpture, prints, and pen plotter drawings. But the real centerpiece of the show is, predictably, a series of new game-based works on view in the US for the first time. Taking up several rooms, the floor-to-ceiling projections that comprise Various Self Playing Bowling Games depict bowlers from gaming’s history (1970 to present day) in a kind of bowling purgatory—rolling a never-ending string of gutter balls, try as they might to go for that elusive strike.
Whatever form his work assumes, Arcangel is the perpetual contrarian, stating that he prefers to move against the current of technological evolution, choosing instead to explore its failures and eventual obsolescence. In an interview we conducted with Arcangel during his Beat The Champ installation at the Barbican in London this past February, he summed up the motivations behind his newest large-scale bowling projections. Upon closer reading, it seems the statement could extend to the majority of his work:
I wanted to explore the idea of computers that are unfulfilled, stuck in loops, machines playing endlessly; that idea of redundancy, a road to nowhere. Maybe trying to demonstrate the awkwardness of technology. And to try to somehow encapsulate all the different stuff that’s happening with culture right now in terms of technology, like social networks, the virtualization of everything. I wanted to try and tackle those kind of issues.
Above, watch an interview and studio visit with Arcangel from our friends at Motherboard.tv.
Cory Arcangel: Pro Tools is on view at the Whitney Museum from May 26 through September 11.
Images of “Beat The Champ” installation at the Barbican courtesy of Kevin Holmes.