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8 April – 14 June 2009

The Communism of Forms @ AGYU
Curated by: Emelie Chhangur + Earl Miller (Toronto), Fernando Oliva + Marcelo Rezende (São Paulo)

The Communism of Forms @ Red Bull 381 Projects
(381 Queen St West, suite 200)
9 April – 14 May 2009
Curated by: Nicholas Brown + Earl Miller (Toronto), Fernando Oliva + Marcelo Rezende (São Paulo)

Opening receptions:
Wednesday, 8 April, 6–9 pm (@AGYU)
Thursday, 9 April, 6–9 pm (@Red Bull 381 Projects)

Communism of Forms — an introduction to the mash-up
The Communism of Forms: Sound + Image + Time – The Strategy of Music Videos is a fluid and evolving exhibition whose first presentation (Galeria Vermelho, São Paulo, 2006) has been remixed and restaged to resonate in the Toronto context. The playlist has been edited, with some works dropped out, others added, and new works specifically commissioned for this presentation. The exhibition itself has been divided between two venues — the Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) and Red Bull 381 Projects — and has insinuated itself into this year’s Images Festival. In transposing the exhibition from São Paulo to Toronto, the curatorial team was conscious of evoking the exhibition’s original spirit but also of finding strategies of presentation akin to the strategies of the works themselves — to create another “communism of forms” within the exhibition structure itself. At AGYU, a series of seven programs — Black Album, Flipside, Replay I, Replay II, MyTube, a program of work by the nomadic collective assume vivid astro focus (After Party I), and After Party II — functions as an archive of various themes in the history of artists’ music video while Red Bull 381 Projects features newly commissioned work and installations that diverge from specific reference to the genre to form new iterations of the interplay between sound, image, and time. The mash-up between the venues (i.e., AGYU and Red Bull 381 Projects) is also present inside the exhibition with an intervention programmed by the Images Festival of Ming Wong’s Lerne Deutsch mit Petra Von Kant (Learn German with Petra Von Kant), 2007. Wong’s installation, in the midst of the AGYU’s exhibition, not only provides a filmic counterpoint to the themes taken up by artists working in the music video genre but also provides another dimension to the viewers’ experience of the exhibition itself. Rock on. — Emelie Chhangur


The Communism of Forms celebrates a murder — at least a figurative one. In 1979, New Wave band The Buggles released their “Video Killed the Radio Star,” their one and only hit. Two years later, this song appropriately became the first music video aired on MTV.

Music video soon captured video artists’ interest as a new media that still overlapped video art’s last key one: television. With many art students and artists dabbling or immersed in pop music, music video was a natural choice. Most importantly though, the MTV music video format — its fast edits, disconnected imagery, and slick consumer style — offered the first generation of postmodern artists the perfect vehicle for addressing the Baudrillardian PoMo fragmentation and supersonic speed of hypercapitalism. Music video continues to provide this opportunity.

The Communism of Forms surveys three decades of work by artists who have considered music video’s bricolage of sound, image, and time. The AGYU programs show the possibilities of artists liberating music video of its commercial conventions to critique as well as expand its parameters. Meanwhile at Red Bull 381 Projects installations offer an abstract relationship to the communism of sound, image, and time of music video to illustrate the rhizomatic expansion of music video's frame of influence.

Works by Pipilotti Rist and David Blandy acknowledge the problems of racism, sexism, homophobia, and materialism in commercial music video. Parodic videos by Andrew J. Paterson, Laibach, and Peaches propose real solutions to these problems through their send-ups of the mediums’ clichés: scantily-clad women and stiffly amateurish choreography to name two. Unlike artists/musicians such as Rist and Laibach who were responding to a new medium, a generation of artists who grew up with music video accordingly use its familiar sound and imagery as found material. Tasman Richardson, for instance, freely re-mixes material with post-production mash-up strategies recalling those of DJ culture. Indeed, the music video format is culturally entrenched, but it is still undergoing rapid change because of YouTube, whose submitted music videos reflect the current DIY pop culture, an aesthetic that artists in The Communism of Forms, including Giorgio Ronna & Matias Aguayo and Bull.Miletic, utilize to great effect. Their YouTube-comparable approach also recalls the low-tech, low-budget nature of early video art. Iain Forsyth and Jane Pollard merge early video art and music video in Walk with Nauman (Re-Performance Corridor), 2006, a remake of Nauman’s 1969 Performance Corridor, replacing Nauman with a lithe female dancer in glitzy clothing. Forsyth and Pollard consequently question whether contemporary video art has to be “fun” to have lasting power in this age of hypercapitalism.

The Music Video is dead. Long live the music video. — Earl Miller

The Communism of Forms List of Artists
@AGYU:
assume vivid astro focus, Bani Abidi, Bad Beuys Entertainment, Márcio Banfi, Laura Belém, David Blandy, Daniel Borins, Bull.Miletic, Miguel Calderón (Los Super Elegantes), Cocoon, Marilá Dardot + Cinthia Marcelle, Dennis Day, Fabio Faria, Chelpa Ferro, Iain Forsyth + Jane Pollard, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Rodney Graham, Maki Guerzi, Mike Hansen, The Histrionics, Kaoru Katayama, Yuki Kawamura, Laibach, Rodrigo Matheus, Peaches, Elodie Pong, Stuart Pound, Sara Ramo, Tasman Richardson, Pipilotti Rist, Giorgio Ronna + Matias Aguayo, Corine Stübi, Tetine, Guido van der Werve.
@Red Bull 381 Projects: Daniel Borins + Jennifer Marman, Brady Cranfield, Anitra Hamilton, Mike Hansen, Rodrigo Matheus, Wagner Morales, Andrew J. Paterson, Valeska Soares, Weekend Leisure.

redbull        images     vermehlo


Lerne Deutsch mit Petra Von Kant (Learn German with Petra Von Kant)
Ming Wong
(Singapore) created this work as a sort of cultural immersion exercise in preparation for his move to Berlin in the summer of 2007. Casting himself in the title role of his favourite German film, The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1972), Wong carefully re-enacts the climactic scene in which German actress Margit Carstensen goes through a hysterical desperate emotional disintegration. In learning and acting the German dialogue, Wong is not only educating himself with a cornerstone of German culture, but potentially preparing himself for the words he may need to articulate his own emotions moving to Berlin as an aging, single, gay ethnic minority. Ming Wong lives and works in Berlin and Singapore. His practice explores the performative veneers of language and identity through the moving image. He has exhibited his work at MKgalerie and Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin, The British Library in London, the Jakarta Biennale and ZKM Center for Art & Media, and many other venues. Wong will be representing Singapore at the 2009 Venice Biennale. — Jacob Korczynski and Pablo de Ocampo

Art Gallery of York University | Accolade East Building, 4700 Keele Street | Toronto ON M3J 1P3 | agyu [at] yorku.ca