Appropriation / Collaboration
Technologies of copying, editing, and distributing have profoundly changed how artists process and use information as material for their own work. “Collage” and “montage” are key terms of that history from Dada and Surrealism to avant-garde film and media art. This artistic path has arguably been impacted on a global scale by the advent of MTV and the video recorder in the 1970s and 1980s and the rise of the Internet in the 1990s. In light of today’s generation that was “born digital” and is influenced by the remix culture of YouTube, the terms “appropriation” and “collaboration” have emerged as possibly the most significant aspects of that larger art and media historical narrative.
Two artistic works from the SFMOMA collection that highlight these trajectories are also cornerstones of two generations of artists. Christian Marclay, who rose to universal fame with the 24-hour film installation The Clock in 2010, started his career of working with found material as a DJ in the 1980s to then embark on his popular review of film history with his first appropriation video in 1995 called Telephones, a unique montage of the dramaturgy of phone calls. This high note of video art is indebted to the long tradition of found footage and has become one of the most entertaining takes on reshuffling the cards that Hollywood had dealt again and again.
Fast-forwarding a decade, artists who have been engaged in social practice or performance have embraced the possibilities of a shared collaborative production process. Artists “find” work now by inviting others to contribute. For Harrell Fletcher and Miranda July, there is no given format for representing their vast archive of more than 8,000 contributions to the online platform Learning to Love You More (2002–2009). Following their own approach to presenting this archive, they have granted SFMOMA the license to show excerpts, parts, single elements, or the whole any way it serves a curatorial idea, provided the context of their assignments was included. While the archive continues to live online, the presentation in UMMA’s Stenn Gallery offers a unique format of consecutive video presentations of the entire archive in a makeshift container, originally designed by the Bay Area artist Stephanie Syjuco—the “collaborator’s choice”—and of one special assignment with contributions side by side—the “curator’s choice.”
The focus of this final installment of the SFMOMA exhibition series examining the idea of performativity is the fundamental impact of technologies on the concepts and modes of production that have characterized the last two decades of contemporary art. Both works reflect paradigm shifts in technology but also a shared interest in non-art practices. These two distinct movements—from the original film edits and narratives of Hollywood to the new cinema of mash-ups and remixes; and from the artwork as concept or instruction to the history of participation in many different realizations by artists and non-artists alike—are deeply embedded in the artists’ individual approaches and aesthetics. Marclay with his musicality and Fletcher & July with their peculiar poetic sensitivity embrace the production of art with the love of the amateur or fan for the popular and the disregarded.
The third season of UMMA’s new media exhibitions is guest curated by Rudolf Frieling, Curator of Media Arts at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). Appropriation / Collaboration: Christian Marclay / Harrell Fletcher & Miranda July is the last of three exhibitions presented in this series focusing on the notion of performativity in contemporary art. Most of the work on view is from SFMOMA’s outstanding collection.
Lead support for this exhibition is provided by the University of Michigan Office of the Provost and the Herbert W. and Susan L. Johe Endowment. Other generous support is provided by the Susan and Richard Gutow Fund and the Robert and Janet Miller Fund.
For more information, visit: http://umma.umich.edu/insider/appropriation-collaboration