Ryan

Ryan

AS HE PREPARES TO OPEN THE 2015 NEW MUSEUM TRIENNIAL—AMID A SMATTERING OF SOLO SHOWS BETWEEN BERLIN, NEW YORK, AND L.A.—DIGITAL PHENOM RYAN TRECARTIN GIVES AN ECSTATIC, TELEMATIC GLIMPSE INTO OUR POST-BINARY FUTURE, WITH A SERIES OF ARTWORKS PREMIERING IN VMAN

AS HE PREPARES TO OPEN THE 2015 NEW MUSEUM TRIENNIAL—AMID A SMATTERING OF SOLO SHOWS BETWEEN BERLIN, NEW YORK, AND L.A.—DIGITAL PHENOM RYAN TRECARTIN GIVES AN ECSTATIC, TELEMATIC GLIMPSE INTO OUR POST-BINARY FUTURE, WITH A SERIES OF ARTWORKS PREMIERING IN VMAN

Text: Kevin McGarry

No one has ever accused Ryan Trecartin of being simple. On the contrary, the 33-year-old Los Angeles–based artist’s work is so unyieldingly loaded with content that people often talk more about its intensity than what it actually depicts. Since he began showing his videos and sculptures in the mid-aughts he has been lauded as a digital prophet, and in 2011 The New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldahl checked him as essentially the great hope for his generation. Last spring, the venerable weekly followed up with a lengthy profile by Calvin Tomkins, the 88-year-old biographer of Marcel Duchamp and other avant-garde legends. It was a discovery piece, the re-re-re-re-discovery of Ryan Trecartin, bearer of the new, and hopefully the last profile of its kind.

By now, whether via the early days of YouTube, a museum, or a Los Feliz health food store—one of the only places you’re likely to see Trecartin IRL besides the studio he shares with his close collaborator, the artist Lizzie Fitch, whom he also lives with by Griffith Park—you’ve probably had an encounter with him and his work, and you probably haven’t forgotten it. I lived with Trecartin in that house from 2010 until about a year ago and I can vouch that over that span of time it was a hive of activity. A wildly generous and adventurous spirit of collaboration has always guided his undertakings. He and Fitch have now been settled in L.A. for almost five years, and with the creation of Fitch-Trecartin Studios (FTS), they have instrumentalized their freewheeling fervor into a laboratory for constant production. Their plan for the near future is to keep FTS going in L.A. as they resume a migratory practice, stationing themselves in locales yet to be determined.

“It’s hard to say how many movies are being made right now,” Trecartin says, “but I’m working with material shot across a sprawl of years: during high school in 1999 to 2000, on a set made in Burbank from 2012 to 2014, various shoots that happened across the Midwest on an RV road trip in 2014, at a lake house in 2005, and in a Masonic temple in 2014.” He alludes to various settings that have made their way into recent movies “which are all exploring similar ideas through different forms of limited reality.” Whereas Trecartin sees Any

Ever, the seven-movie series he made circa 2010, as concerned with personality, consciousness, and behaviors as transient values—casting existence and interaction in a transactional light—in his new work “the movies themselves are the interiors of educational gaming systems, ideological recollection centers, real-time diversity spots, and relativity parks that have been repurposed for off-label modes of recreational existence and observation.” In this sense, the mechanics of the games demonstrate the evolution of character and drama more than narrative through-lines. “A big distinction between my previous work and what I’m making now is that characters no longer exactly embody ideas or act as vehicles for conceptual transformations—they’re more like fixed proxies being accessed by outside sources. Sources that are not necessarily revealed narratively and which may take multiple forms or may be in flux. The characters that are viewable in the new work are more tool-like, usable but limited fields of access where the degree and the quality of the freedom ‘available’ is masked by modes that function more like players, or guests, or hosts, or ghosts.”

The videos included in his most recently exhibited installations, Site Visit, shown at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin, and Ledge, at Regen Projects in Los Angeles, were shot at the Wilshire Boulevard Scottish Rite Masonic Temple in the final weeks of the building’s life as a cavernous mausoleum. Abandoned for decades, it is now under construction as the future home of the Maurice and Paul Marciano Art Foundation, a private museum for the collection of the founders of Guess Jeans, who availed the 200,000 square feet of forlorn hallways, meeting rooms, and an opera house to Fitch, Trecartin, and a host of other collaborators. “In a way the protagonist is the building itself,” Trecartin says. “The realities proposed inside the temple shoots function similarly to a horror movie, or a horror mode, accessed to explore new types of fear that might emerge from a different relationship to time—one that is more generous than our biological limitations can comfortably afford us.”

Another project coming to fruition for Trecartin this spring has required him to shift into a new and unfamiliar mode. Together with curator Lauren Cornell he has curated the New Museum’s 2015 Triennial exhibition, which opened on February 25 and runs through May 24. The show’s title is Surround Audience—a multivalent phrase that touches on the artist’s observations about how culture is created and consumed today. “The need to make and share things with people is always changing form,” he says. “Ten or twenty years ago, identity politics was essential to creating a space for diversity. We are heirs to the potential consequences of those battles and many now assume that we can simply declare—or behave as—who and what we are in more mutable ways, without a need to always state these things in opposition to some prevailing norm. You no longer need to create dichotomies to catalyze progress or be the embodiment of a movement. There is more room to simply utilize a movement as an application or instigate contextual innovation.” Skipping the binary us vs. them identifications. “Many people seem to be seeking both a personalized diversification of self and a more complexly collaborative investigation of existence,” he says. In this sense, the roles of makers and audiences of all kinds are overlapping into expansive spheres of experience with unlimited peripheral vision.

“Another thing about Surround Audience,” says Trecartin, “is how extremely conflicting ideas can coexist functionally not only in the same show but in the same body of work by the same artist—to have something figured out or mastered seems to be less of a goal for many emerging artists, it’s more about rigorously inclusive explorations and inventive adaptability.”

2015 Triennial: Surround Audience is on view at the New Museum through May 24

PHOTOGRAPHY ANTHONY VALDEZ  ARTWORK RYAN TRECARTIN

Credits: 3D models/animations Rhett LaRue  Models Ryan Trecartin and Rhett LaRue

UP NEXT

Tobias