Cory Arcangel, "GAO" (2013)

Cory Arcangel, Clinton, 2011. Pencil on paper (produced with Mutoh XP-300 series printer), edition 1 of 3, 11 x 8.5 inches. 

Last year, critic Alix Rule and artist David Levine suggested in a much-discussed article in Triple Canopy that the dense, quasi-theoretical writing found in contemporary art press releases should be reformatted as meter and appreciated as avant-garde poetry. This week, Cory Arcangel took the next logical step and used the email press release for his forthcoming exhibition at DHC/ART, which was circulated on the e-flux mailing list, as an opportunity for a sly text-based intervention.

Trained initially in classical guitar and music technology at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Cory Arcangel is no_ recognized as a major exponent of a pop-tinged, computer-centred art.   

As in the excerpt shown above, the letter "w" was omitted from the entire email. No explanation was offered, apart from this credit line: "Pictured here: Cory Arcangel, GAO, 2013. ASCII modified institutional press release." So I had to email Arcangel to ask what this was about. His reply consisted of a winky emoticon (in Comic Sans font) and a link to this article in the Daily Mail describing reported vandalism of the White House by outgoing Clinton staffers:

President George Bush has launched an investigation into what appears to be a systematic disabling of White House equipment by outgoing members of Bill Clinton's staff, and obscene messages left for the new administration.


Telephone lines have been cut, voice-mail messages changed to scatological, lewd greetings. One Bush staffer's grandmother telephoned his office from the Midwest and was "horrified" by what she heard on his message machine.

Many telephone lines were switched to the wrong offices. Desks were turned upside down and rubbish scattered everywhere.

Filing cabinets were glued shut, pornographic pictures inserted into computer printers, together with obscene slogans. In one office hallway, lewd graffiti had been written with a Magic Marker.


Earlier this week it was learned that many computer keyboards in the White House are missing the letter "W" which is President Bush's middle initial. He is often known by that alone. 

One of the questions raised by Rule and Levine's takedown of "International Art English" is whether anyone is really paying attention to the content of these press releases—whether they have an audience. Along the same lines, the missing "W" is a kind of provocation, designed to nearly fly beneath the threshhold of anyone's attention. Like many of Arcangel's works, GAO is barely anything at all, but through a slight alteration of a given set of paramaters, it illuminates the structure and conventions of the context in which it operates.