Ryan Trecartin: Any Ever
By Romas Astrauskas
Ryan Trecartin: Any Ever
The Power Plant
March 26 - May 24, 2010
Ryan Trecartin is a 29-year-old American video/installation artist who has made quite a name for himself inside (and even outside) artistic circles. His garish, loopy and dizzyingly excessive films perfectly capture the pulse, attitude and character of an age that seems to communicate and express itself primarily through the use of digital media. His work reflects the way we attempt to define ourselves culturally and socially in the contemporary age, specifically as it relates to our use of “tools” like YouTube and Facebook, which can be used to construct and share digital identities. Just as easily as these identities can be created, however, they can also be altered and even destroyed, which seems to be the gist of Mr. Trecartin’s enterprise.
The exhibition, Any Ever, consisted of a suite of seven video works, each one presented within a constructed setting — an airplane passenger compartment, for example — all of them banal, kitschy and resolutely artificial in appearance. These artificial environments are in essence, reflections of the unstable environments we see on screen and help to emphasize their pseudo-reality. None of the videos seem to offer any traditional narrative threads; instead, they are a cacophonous barrage of unhinged characters, gaudy costumes and cheap digital graphics all contained (barely) within a coarse and abrupt editing style. The viewer is left to sort whatever information they can digest into something that may resemble their own version of cohesive reality. It’s not an easy task, particularly considering the general vulgarity of the spectacle but, surely, there are ideas to be gleaned from the proceedings.
As the characters (many played by Trecartin himself) mug, prance and screech their way through their artificial environments, we become acutely aware of their complete malleability as they constantly attempt to recreate themselves with the same ease and speed of changing a Facebook profile picture. They perform instant and effortless personal re-inventions, an idea that seems pervasive in our larger culture where something done yesterday seems increasingly easier to forget today. When ideas and truth can shift so rapidly with seemingly zero repercussions, what do we hold on to? Transience is a natural part of the human condition and, to some degree or another, we all expect change in our lives. But, when that change becomes increasingly rapid to the point of complete and constant mutability, how do we find or preserve meaning? If, like the characters in Trecartin’s universe, you can be anything and everything at anytime, then, ultimately, you are nothing.
Romas Astrauskas is a Toronto-based artist and writer. His paintings, sculptures and collages have been exhibited widely throughout the city, including shows at Greener Pastures, Clark & Faria, Clint Roenisch, and LE Gallery. In September, he will be participating in a two-person show with Hugh Scott-Douglas at Jspace, an experimental new venue located in Toronto’s west end.