Brian Droitcour
Since 2008
Works in BROOKLYN, New York United States of America

BIO
Rhizome curatorial fellow September 2008 - April 2009, staff writer April 2009 - December 2011, poetry editor January 2012 - 20??

Performance Anxiety


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Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch, The Abboutthing (in the air), 2009 (Image Courtesy of Elizabeth Dee)

Few things are farther from the cool white walls of Chelsea than the anxieties and values of teenage suburbia, which is probably why Ryan Trecartin’s videos about them, untranslated into the art world’s dominant dialect of aloof criticality, looked so exotic and aroused so much excitement when he made his gallery debut here a year and a half ago. Trecartin’s work grows out of YouTube rants, Myspace intros, and other random homemade shorts , and while grotesque histrionics set his videos apart from the average upload, he keeps them close to their sources of inspiration by addressing issues of popularity, independence, and social approval, and shooting them in spacious beige interiors that approximate the bedroom of the regular webcam-wielding kid. Lizzie Fitch, who has collaborated with Trecartin on his videos as an actress and set designer, makes installations based on the same bland domestic environment, using furniture and appliances from big-box stores. Trecartin and Fitch’s current video-free exhibition at Elizabeth Dee, the first time they’ve had a double billing at the New York gallery, lies closer to Fitch’s territory than Trecartin’s, and the calculated result doesn’t indicate a promising direction for either artist to take.

Trecartin and Fitch use the gallery’s two rooms to simulate the interior and exterior of a suburban home, but they’ve switched the order of the front and back so that the viewer becomes an intruder, passing through the backyard before entering the living room. The first installation, The Aboutthing (in the air), suggests a good time that ended in disaster. Rubbermaid boxes bobbing in an above-ground pool-- a lowbrow luxury, not as fancy as an inground pool -- contain the residue ...

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Click Through This


Image: Becket Bowes, Alan Turing, 2009

Hypertext fiction was proclaimed at its inception as the literary genre of the future, but now it already feels like a relic of the past. Ironically, nineteen years after a software company published the first hypertext story, Michael Joyce’s Afternoon, fast internet connections and popular reference sites have made habits of fragmentary, non-linear reading common enough to prepare a wide audience for tackling hypertext fiction (who clicked on the link above before finishing this sentence?), but hardly any artists and writers are making serious attempts at it. Becket Bowes is one exception. His project [sic]ipedia, conceived for and developed during SculptureCenter’s "In Practice” program, takes the form of an evocative description of an arcane curio cabinet, with backstories of the items it contains.

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Image: Becket Bowes, Social Isolate Club, 2009 (Installation View at SculptureCenter)

Bowes’ installation in the back of SculptureCenter’s basement was composed of those items—two Ships of Theseus, a Comfortable Chair, a simulation of Alan Turing’s death mask and a model of his bust spinning on a computer monitor, to name a few. [sic]ipedia began as a simple site, with a gray sphere and blank prompt in a stripped-down variation on Wikipedia’s home page. But over the course of the “In Practice” exhibition’s run at SculptureCenter, Bowes gathered his friends—members of the Social Isolate Club, or SIC—inside his installation, to talk out the histories and significance of the objects there. At each meeting, Bowes would take notes in composition books, and then convert the notes into pages on [sic]ipedia. Taken together, [sic]ipedia (the web site) and Social Isolate Club (the installation) suggested parallels between reading hypertext and viewing an installation: both give the viewer a degree of autonomy in ...

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Just the Fax


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Image: Peter Coffin, Untitled, 2009

A sign at the entrance to “FAX” tells viewers that the exhibition was organized by The Drawing Center and that its subsequent tour will be managed by Independent Curators International. A show of artists’ faxes could be exceptionally travel-friendly—just call the artists and ask them to send their work again. But iCI plans to do it the hard way: The original faxes will be taken down and transported to the next venue, along with the three-ring binders full of faxes displayed on a desk in the gallery’s simulated curatorial office. That decision could be chalked up to the art world’s reverence of scarcity, or it could be seen as a sign of heightened attention to the medium. All of the pages bear the machine’s signature, a line at the top that identifies their dates and origins, which bolsters the idea that each work is a specific act of communication between the participating artists and curator João Ribas.

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Image: Warren Neidich, Detail from "Some cursory comments on the nature of my diagrammatic drawing"

The expendability of the medium encouraged playful responses. Sam Owen flipped and exceeded the standard 8”x11” sheet of paper in his letter to Ribas, which he wrote out by hand in big, chunky letters on a few dozen sheets of paper, enough to cover several square feet of the gallery’s back corner. Olav Westphalen sent cartoonish instructions for setting a fax machine aflame: draw a fire on the cover page, extend its rising column on the second page, then set it on a loop it so that the receiving machine keeps working until it overheats and starts spewing real smoke. Amanda Ross-Ho took a more philosophical approach. She printed out photographs of products for sale at ...

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Surveying the Limitless Field


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Image: Still from Lucy Raven's "China Town"

When the staff of the New York Underground Film Festival decided to end the fifteen-year-old institution and start fresh, they named their new venture Migrating Forms. The title of the new festival, which debuted last week at Anthology Film Archives, resonates with the theories that heavyweight curators like Roger Brueghel and Nicolas Bourriaud have proposed to describe art-making in conditions of international interconnectedness, where a finite number of cultural models yield a seemingly infinite number of variations. The term “migrating forms” could also refer to the travel of moving-image art between gallery and cinema, or describe aspects of films in the festival program, from the content of documentaries like Lucy Raven’s China Town, a stop-motion photographic animation about the U.S.-China copper trade, to the form of shorts that repurposed found footage, like Jesse McLean’s Somewhere Only We Know, which included a montage of reality-show contestants’ faces as they are kicked off television.

Oksana Bulgakowa’s The Factory of Gestures, based on her book of the same name, explored how Russian and Soviet cinema manufactured and recalibrated codes of body language over eighty years of social upheaval. Running commentary explained gestures’ shifting meanings, and the replacement of the films’ sound with a spare, atonal score helped separate the actors’ motions from narrative. The subject matter of The Factory of Gestures had limited appeal for the experimental film crowd (I was the only viewer at the Saturday afternoon screening), but Bulgakowa’s work suggested an interesting direction for creative presentations of scholarly research.

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Image: Still from Jacob Ciocci’s "The Peace Tape"

The lecture format appeared again in Oliver Laric’s Versions, a pithy essay on the irrelevance of the notion of authenticity and the “animistic” attitude that has taken ...

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Object Study


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Image: The score to Matmos’ Supreme Balloon, as seen on screens of PLOrk members

Last weekend the Kitchen hosted two night of performances by Matmos, So Percussion and PLOrk, the Princeton Laptop Orchestra. In addition to playing the conventional array of instruments, So Percussion exploits the unnoticed sonic properties of everyday objects -- Friday’s program began with their Cactus Song, in which the ensemble’s members huddled around a miked squash, stuck it with resonant tines, and plucked it like a karimba. So Percussion’s pairing with PLOrk highlighted the latter’s treatment of computers as objects. Technology from the phonograph to the sampler and beyond has been used to disembody sound, but PLOrk is among the growing ranks of electronic musicians who adapt gadgets to fix sound production in its physical context. They make laptops behave less like mixing machines and more like percussive instruments.

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Image: Musicians rehearsing at The Kitchen. (Courtesy of PLOrk.)

PLOrk uses hemispherical speakers that localizes the sound rather than mixing all the input into a single system, to give each computer an individual voice, like instruments in a symphony. (They also look awesome.) The ensemble’s members write software that connect each action to a result in order to make playing the laptop more like hitting the keys of a piano, so they’re not just dragging a cursor to manipulate parameters in a window. Another favorite PLOrk device is hacking the Mac’s motion sensor and connecting it to a sampler, so that swinging the laptop creates the illusion that a musician is grabbing sonorities from the ether and throwing them across the stage. The orchestra made effective use of that technique in Supreme Balloon, a Matmos piece that began with drones and transitioned to a tuneful idyll as the accompanying video shifted ...

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