Let’s Play Majerus G3
As culture itself becomes increasingly digitized, more and more of it will end up in drawers like this—discarded, forgotten, and inoperable.
—Cory Arcangel in Artforum, summer 2014
The Michel Majerus Estate recently announced “Let’s Play Majerus G3,” a project featuring a previously unexplored aspect of the artist’s archive: his computer. An initiative led by artist Cory Arcangel, “Let’s Play Majerus G3” takes as its point of departure the laptop that artist Michael Majerus (1967–2002) used in his late career, now reactivated following a restoration undertaken in cooperation with Rhizome’s digital preservation team.
By examining this crucial tool, “Let’s Play: Majerus G3”—an expansive program comprising the exhibition at the Michel Majerus Estate, a talk, a performance and a YouTube series—proposes that an artist’s digital workspace can offer valuable insights into their life and work. It allows unprecedented access to Majerus’ digital studio and the approaches that informed it, representing a revolutionary development in the understanding of his oeuvre, and allowing a uniquely first-hand glimpse, through the eyes of a fellow artist, into this rich primary source.
While their respective practices began nearly a decade apart, and despite the disparate nature of their media, Majerus and Arcangel are united by a core interest in the aesthetics of digital imagery, the generative potential of new technologies, critique of said technologies and the free traversal of analog and digital worlds.
In 2022, Kunstverein in Hamburg staged “Data Streaming,” an exhibition that showcased a selection of late work by Majerus, and probed how the increasing presence of the digital in the late 1990s profoundly impacted his practice. On view concurrently with Arcangel’s presentation “Flying Foxes,” the pairing of shows brought the dialogue between the two artists to the fore, drawing attention to the brief moment in which their practices overlapped.
Using emulation developed by Dragan Espenschied and Mona Ulrich from Rhizome, Arcangel here reactivates Majerus’ laptop (a 1998 Macintosh PowerBook G3)—a tool that Majerus spent significant time with on a daily basis, conceiving works and exhibitions, assembling his schedule, conducting communication and experimenting with software. Arcangel’s project highlights Majerus’ use of the then-burgeoning internet, the scale, speed, accessibility and autonomy of which opened new doors for artists, and affords a singularly comprehensive look at his digital studio. Within the emulation environment, Majerus’ computer exists as the artist last used it, exactly as it stood in 2002, providing detailed insight into his process of conception, production and display, with files ranging from sketches of future works to exhibition views of them in their realized forms.
Arcangel’s work is driven by the temporality and technological dependence of aesthetics, with modern-day technology constituting, in a broad sense, a key advancement in human history—a chronology that includes everything from musical instruments of the Renaissance to contemporary video games. Among a generation of artists distinguished by the integration of new media in their practices, Arcangel’s early negotiation of a digital present stands as exceptional. His engagement with archival computing here builds upon a 2014 project in which he, together with Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry, a team specializing in obsolete technology, accessed over 30-year-old floppy discs from the collection of the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh, rescuing a group of long-lost digital works by the artist.
The project at the Michel Majerus Estate, in exploring and presenting Majerus’ computer, foregrounds the technological challenge of re-accessing a wealth of information thought to be lost.
It lends consideration to the increasingly prominent role of archiving digital materials and interrogates the ways in which these holdings crucially factor into authoring art-historical narratives surrounding 21st-century protagonists.
“Let’s Play: Majerus G3” is accompanied by an in-person and online program. The exhibition at the Michel Majerus Estate features works by Arcangel that span nearly two decades, including new commissions displayed alongside selected works by Majerus in a juxtaposition that suggests a continuity in non-concurrent, albeit conceptually linked, bodies of work.
On YouTube, Arcangel—in his debut as a “YouTuber”—posts “Let’s Play” videos that feature him as he navigates Majerus’ computer as part of this project. These videos are also presented on the Michel Majerus Estate’s website and will soon be included in Rhizome’s “ArtBase Anthologies,” a new series of presentations of digital artworks that offer transformative experiences and an equitable historical accounting of the field.
The project is accompanied by a conversation between Cory Arcangel and Dragan Espenschied during Gallery Weekend Berlin, followed by a new iteration of Arcangel’s performance The AUDMCRS Underground Dance Music Collection of Recorded Sound (2015—ongoing) in fall 2024.
“Let’s Play: Majerus G3” was created in cooperation with Rhizome. The emulation of Majerus’ computer, developed by OpenSLX, was overseen by Dragan Espenschied, Preservation Director at Rhizome, and Mona Ulrich. The project is supported by grants from the Institute for Contemporary Art Research (IFCAR), awarded by the Zurich University of the Arts, where Arcangel currently teaches; and from Arcangel Surfware, a software and merchandise publisher founded by Arcangel in 2014.
Cory Arcangel (b. 1978, Buffalo, US) is an artist living and working in Stavanger, Norway. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at Kunstverein in Hamburg, Hamburg (2022); Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2011); Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh (2012); The Barbican, London (2011); Reykjavik Art Museum, Iceland (2015); Hamburger Bahnhof—Museum für Gegenwart, Berlin (2010); Museum of Contemporary Art, North Miami (2010) and Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst, Zurich (2005).