Priority Innfield sees the old chapel at Chalk Farm over-run by constructed sets, housing the creative duo Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch’s latest video works. Viewed in what seems to be a series of dark american patio areas, the whole place feels perfect for any high school party, a gentle introduction when compared with the actual films. Like, you seriously have to go!!!!!! Like, Like SERIOUSLY. I feel my brain settling down into a new louder than life American accent, or maybe I can be the token English girl, whatever, feels like I’m definitely here to perform, even secretly, away from any camera, (a sorority hoody lies tempting on a bench).
‘Once upon an industry standard…’ drawls a bored voice somewhere in the first film ‘Item Falls’, another whining ‘whats a camera?’, with a character leering right through the lens. The actors jostle for attention in front of a camera that seems to drift around the action, equally alive, as they try to prove themselves as the best actors in some kind of reality show, a gaming system/university hybrid. The lens seems to interrupt the action as much it directs, so we are made really aware that this is a filmed, staged happening. The actors basically won’t shut up about ‘stunt chickens’ as they lounge around an audition space practicing their lines and sporadically hurling themselves off ladders. We see glimpses of camera men and the production team who- readily costumed- shift seamlessly into action. I catch myself about to walk into a mirror, mistaking it for another exhibition room, in a stumble that totally reflects how the characters slip in and out of performances. Conscious and unconscious of the camera, acting more naturally, then repeating and performing themselves.
Everyone involved is heavily made up and united by creepy contact lenses, worn by every character in another nod to the relation between ours, theirs and the camera’s gaze- they seem possessed. Hair extensions, full faces of eyeshadow and spray tan applied more than liberally make up the troupe of ‘actors’, who seem either beyond race or gender, or otherwise futuristic iterations of hyper profiled high-school tropes. The performance becomes a mass of shifting bodies, hectic and noisy. Whatever it is, it’s a really overwhelming confrontation between the real and virtual. One character demonstrates an ‘animated’ chair you can stick your hand through before an ‘animated’ horse walks in. It’s kind of hard to believe that Trecartin and Fitch are real, or that the vast LA set is.
In CENTER JENNY all the characters are called Jenny. The Jenny characters live out their wild personas at university in ritualistic social groups who meet to discuss their ancestry in some kind of an initiation circle. Cell phones in the middle are focused, (as the exhibition lit thankfully explains), on the source Jenny- who claims to be ‘directly descended from humanity’.
All of them seem to be crazy stuttering iterations of each other. One sorority girl, (another Jenny), stands up and laments on the ‘objectification of time’ stating, “I no longer look for meaning in things, it is NOT my responsibility”. As trippy and nonsensical as the videos seem, these characters repeat real truths which relate to what it is to perform and be seen in a real world so overloaded with information. Like, what is more terrifying, real high school, or high school movies?
You can see some of the work on Vimeo (http://vimeo.com/trecartin) or check out the show at The Zabludowicz Collection in Chalk Farm, London!
Words by Hannah Le Feuvre
All images are screenshots from the films, copyright to Ryan Trecartin.