A Happy Medium

Currently on view in an off-beat neighborhood in the off-beat art city of Louisville, Kentucky, is an exhibition of nine very up-and-coming media artists: Justin Clark, Petra Cortright, Thomas Galloway, Michael Guidetti, Jacolby Satterwhite, Hayley Silverman, Will Simpson, Dan Wickerham, and Damon Zucconi. Curated by artist Ilia Ovechkin, co-founder of Loshadka--a group net art site of the "surf club" variety, the show (open at Plexus Contemporary through August 8th) includes many artists who work primarily on the internet or with web-derived materials and themes, but whose work for the show demonstrates a fluidity between online and offline forms. "The common thread between these artists is that they are all comfortable with being multidisciplinary and working across media," Ovechkin said, in Lousville's local Velocity Weekly, "but the conversation becomes even more interesting when you focus on the individual works and the topics they address." The familiar title of the Weekly piece was "The Medium is the Message," but Ovechkin seems eager to zoom further-in on the works, not prioritizing their form over their content. For instance, Jacolby Satterwhite's video, Model It, in which the artist is seen vogueing in front of the camera, might initially read as just another artist's response to YouTube culture, but the song in the piece was written by his mentally-ill mother and acts as a sort of empowerment anthem backdrop for Satterwhite's bigger commentary on "African American male patriarchy, sexuality, and material culture." Damon Zucconi's video Slow Rave (last minutes of trance energy), effects a spiritual experience on a well-lit dance floor by slowing down found footage of dancers at a rave. As the subjects gesture slowly and silently, the viewer identifies with the trance-like feeling they must be experiencing on a higher level. The binary "on" of a strobe light is emphasized, even as it's clear that a lot of "dark" information is missing from this sequence in which software fills-in "the blanks between 'real' frames, creating 'artificial' information." This question of the relationship between real and artificial is also taken up in Petra Cortright's YARNSTRIPE, in which she worked to create a large, archetypal, painter's-perspective natural landscape image within the scale constraints of computer software. Will Simpson and Thomas Galloway both use found and modified internet material to exploit this vocabulary in presenting condensed representations of the fantasies, mythologies, deities, and monuments erected online, pushing the seemingly amateur ethos into the realm of something more cryptically symbolic. Not all of the artists in the show are taking their work offline. Michael Guidetti works in paper, canvas, and bits, but says that his visually bombastic site, www.yyyyyyy.info is in fact influenced by the techniques used in his drawings and paintings. Perhaps examples like these can help us move beyond the division of message and medium in which one must always be prioritized. - Marisa Olson

Image: Damon Zucconi, Slow Rave (last minutes of trance energy), 2006

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