Ryan Trecartin b. 1981
P.opular S.ky (section ish), 2009
HD Video, 43:51
Rather than authoritative descriptions, these reflections on Any Ever by writer and curator Kevin McGarry have been developed in conversation with the artist as a means to orient viewers to some of the key themes and structures of the work.
Ryan Trecartin’s Any Ever comprises seven autonomous but interrelated videos. The work is structured as a diptych, with Trill-ogy Comp (three movies) as one side and Re’Search Wait’S (four movies) as the other. Taken together, these videos embark on poetic, formal, and structural elaborations of new forms of technology, language, narrative, identity, and humanity, portraying an extra-dimensional world that channels the existential dramas of our own. Any Ever’s core material is the perpetual flux of relationships among characters patterned to form constellations of meaning across videos. In the spirit of the work, which attempts to literalize the figurative to the point of abstraction, these formations can be imagined as having geometric properties that govern their interactions. The individual videos fit together, block, break, orbit, or attract one another in infinite shifting combinations. Any Ever’s master narrative is subjectively chosen by the viewer, read from the shifting topography of its seven parts.
Up close, the dynamics between characters sometimes seem to construct a plot and sometimes don’t. Consistently, they confuse the movies’ connections to space and time, extending the condition of synesthesia from the five senses to the laws of physics. With conventional narrative unities upended, events that transpire during the videos serve only as backdated markers of possibilities. Regardless of the scripted outcomes, each of these possibilities, by definition, could have unfolded in countless other ways. “Cause and effect,” in this world, are not “start and finish,” but simply brackets around these junctures of possible action. The philosophical tenet that one becomes everything one thinks, says, and does is both immediate and absolute in the work; Any Ever’s setting is simultaneity, in which being and becoming, along with everything else, co-exist.
Trill-ogy Comp consists of the three movies K-CoreaINC.K (section a); Sibling Topics (section a); and P.opular S.ky (section ish). Its title freely associates with the words “trill” and “comp”—as in the musical sound resulting from rapidly alternating between two notes, or the phonetic sound produced by rolling Rs, or other iterations of linguistic tremolo; and as in “composition,” “complement,” “comprehension,” and in general, with regard to a sense of built completeness, especially in reference to music and in digital editing. This wordplay hints at the frenetic interplay within Trill-ogy Comp, as well as the role Trill-ogy Comp plays as the more kinetic half of Any Ever. The narrative development of each video follows the structuralist unity of form and content, self-reflexively building formal logics through abstraction.
K-CoreaINC.K (section a) features actors styled as various corporate beings called “Koreas”; held together in a lightly allegorical cloud of reductive international stereotypes, they are homogenized by their blond wigs, powder, and office-casual attire, the sum of which Trecartin terms “work face.” The video revolves around an unending party-like work meeting led by Global Korea (Telfar Clemens) that goes in circles to evade a traditional dramatic arc. The Koreas seem focused only on absurd self-perpetuation, whereby the maintenance of their careers is the principal goal of their jobs. Amid the din of self-negating office politics, one underling aspires to introduce her own agenda to the workflow. “North American Korea,” (Veronica Gelbaum) as she calls herself, alters the narrativity of the video by advancing linear plot elements, which make the rest of her company vulnerable to being limited by definite temporal locations like “before” and “after.”
Sibling Topics (section a) adopts a narrative and style that is more cinematic and seemingly straightforward than any of Trecartin’s other works. The artist plays quadruplet sisters named Ceader, Britt, Adobe, and Deno. Their personal boundaries are indistinct, and so is the notion of how they function as a group: are they a family or a corporation? As with the Koreas, the answer is both. The sisters set off on a series of episodic adventures, some of which are defined as “premises”: situations initiated by those who have predetermined their tone, terms, and trajectory. Sibling Topics counterbalances the circularity of K-CoreaINC.K, and together they explore polar dimensions of narrative absurdity and the persistence of communities to form, hybridize, and thrive in any circumstance, even an imaginary one.
P.opular S.ky (section ish) submerges characters from other sections of Any Ever into an extreme poetic state where their creative limits bloom, but perhaps only on an illusory level. As the section “ish” (vs. section “a”) to the works above, the movie's threads appear to be the culmination of situations initiated during other parts of Any Ever, but at the same time they are annexed as outcomes that might not be part of the official record. The feeling of continuing past what is normal or certain is the most pervasive, binding sensation throughout the movie; not characters themselves, but the continuance of who they were in other movies, are the lead roles. The events of P.opular S.ky are the fevered and shadowy projections of a mind being played with: Trill-ogy Comp can be taken as a human brain, and here the organ is jabbed to produce life-like illusions. Whether real or not, the situations brought to life in P.opular S.ky key the arc and understanding of the rest of Trill-ogy Comp by depicting versions of their finalities.
Re’Search Wait’S comprises four movies: Ready, The Re’Search, Roamie View : History Enhancement, and Temp Stop. The setting of this other side of the Any Ever diptych is a complicated industry predicated on the supremacy of metaphysically evolved market research. The base commodities are personality traits; while ordinarily they are considered malleable, here they ossify into static examples (“examplize,” to use Trecartin’s term) that can be traded among owners. With market research lording both the supply and demand of existence, characters are wrapped in a knot where their every action is studied, and the findings dictate the brands that pilot everything they do. As a picture of modern consumer society literalized to an extreme, Re’Search Wait’S verges on social science-fiction; and by examplizing Any Ever’s other half into fuel for their own stories, these works tie the seven together as a yin and yang of nihilism and boundless meaning.
In Ready, Wait, played by Trecartin, is introduced as the eponymous figure of the series. Wait waits. He forsakes a “career” in favor of a “job,” the execution of which Trecartin calls a “work performance.” A careerist like Y-Ready (Veronica Gelbaum) may call the shots, but she is locked in her own endless narcissistic ascent, whereas Wait can retire from his job at anytime, and does, only to come back from vacation marked for containment. A third type of worker, Able (Lizzie Fitch), more fluidly adopts and discards the gestures of job and career, positing herself as a hobbyist who contrives the situations and outcomes she needs to keep her wave going. “Transumerism,” or consumerism driven by experience, is introduced as a central theme of Any Ever and underlies the plight of JJ, a painted pant-suited guru with an addiction not mood enhancers, but intangible products that offer transcient psyches wholesale. As JJ imbibes different personalities, a battery of digital filters lifted from commercial editing programs conjure a kaleidoscopic havoc that guides the characters toward calamity. Meanwhile, clashes between painting and digital art and between careerism as a means of actualizing and subverting the self, establish the voice of creativity as a vulnerable protagonist that is taken under fire by the chaos.
Roamie View : History Enhancement reveals JJ as a husk of his former self, overwhelmed by too many experimental personalities and reverted to factory presets. He hires Roamie Hood’s (Alison Powell) company to roam backwards through time to research an opportunity for an edit that could alter his future-present. With Backseat Grace (Rachel Lord) and Liberty Lance (Liz Rywelski), Roamie careens into the suburban lair of three average teenaged boys, and from there into an animated environment strewn with stock footage videos of female assistants, some stomping by cubicles with corporate zeal, others despondent, or off-hours, shopping and twirling bags on the street. But despite all the buoyant exuberance, Roamie and her team fail to make a new JJ moment. Sleek, highrise interiors are thrust forward as the next setting, where Liberty Lance joins JJ in a chrome-cold hotel room, and then Able dons another, residual version of herself to meet a similarly muted woman called Average Katie (Liz Rywelski) in an oceanfront condo. Their ambiguous flirtation suggests that romance is simple and simplicity is romantic. In fact, they are just two bodies in a very special setting. The movie closes with a song. A line goes, “you're not the only sky to touch that star.” Traversing times and possibilities as physical places, Roamie View : History Enhancement collapses the importance of grasping who one is, in favor of where. Who is incidental, contained, monotonous; but an inhabited context is what informs and is informed by an active identity.
The Re’Search is a tween-aged microcosm of Any Ever. The movie is actual market research collected by Wait for Y-Ready. It doubles as the site of Wait’s vacation, as well as echoed versions of scenarios from other sections of Any Ever from which characters either reappear or are replicated here as young girls. Separately, it is a production commissioned for Voy, a pigtailed pseudo–Olsen Twin, by her prop lesbian parents. However, Voy herself moves in and out of the action, blurring the boundaries of what is inside and outside reality and fiction. Framed as research subjects and thus ostensibly as anthropological content, the young girls in the movie serve Disney-perfect archetypes, social structures, and appearances. These girls are played by exactly the Floridian child actors, dancers, and singers who perform the very real work of being a princess (or underling). Here, the drama again revolves around business-family hybrid negotiations, this time the “merger” of different cliques. There is also the spectacle of beautiful, tortured Sammy B, who promises suicide every day, broadcast online from her pink bedroom. Although her fans watch her to hate her, what they love is to see her feel, and no one will join the audience that would allow her to permanently drop out.
Temp Stop, as the title implies, has a disjunctive quality that separates it from the other parts of Re’Search Wait’S. As if emanating from the basement of Any Ever, each scene plays like a hidden-away epilogue rendering characters comparatively surreal— in part because they are often straightforward and ordinary. The movie opens with a less omnipotent Y-Ready barking an abusive monologue to hypothetical subservients and bidding Able to use The Re’Search to brainwash JJ into a duplicate of Wait. Able's work alter ego, Past Jessica, is battered by her office. She is out of time, and by that extension, timelessness in Any Ever is not equated with limitlessness but with total lack: no time. Then, in a dream, Past-Jessica repairs to nature with an emancipated Korea knockoff played by Trecartin. Though fleeting, viewers take in a gasp of stillness from this flora, air, and sun scored by poignant swelling. While clearly a fantasy in the context of the movie, the sequence could conversely be the only waking moment of Any Ever’s whirling four hours. The idea of stopping―of waiting―repeatedly surfaces as a paradoxical theme across Re’Search Wait’S. It is weakness while a discontented Wait waits for opportunities and others snatch them; but in order to halt the constant motion of automated ambition, to pause and engage with a real place and time, waiting is also the ultimate strength that lends characters constancy in a sea of constant change.
– Kevin McGarry
These videos are being made available for noncommercial and educational use only. All rights to this recorded material belong to Ryan Trecartin. Used with permission of Ryan Trecartin.
Used with kind permission of Andrea Rosen Gallery, NY, and Regen Projects, LA.
These titles are available for exhibitions, screenings, and institutional use through Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI), NY. Please visit the EAI Online Catalogue for further information about this artist and work. The EAI site offers extensive resources for curators, students, artists and educators, including: an in-depth guide to exhibiting, collecting, and preserving media art; A Kinetic History: The EAI Archives Online, a collection of essays, primary documents, and media charting EAI's 40-year history and the early years of the emergent video art scene; and expanded contextual and educational materials.