The automedial zaniness of Ryan Trecartin

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Publication details

Hill, W 2018, 'The automedial zaniness of Ryan Trecartin', M / C Journal, vol. 21, no. 2.

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The American artist Ryan Trecartin makes digital videos that centre on the self-presentations common to video-sharing sites such as YouTube. Named by New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldahl as “the most consequential artist to have emerged since the 1980s” (84), Trecartin’s works are like high-octane domestic dramas told in the first-person, blending carnivalesque and horror sensibilities through multi-layered imagery, fast-paced editing, sprawling mise-en-scène installations and heavy-handed digital effects. Featuring narcissistic young-adult characters (many of whom are played by the artist and his friends), Trecartin’s scripted videos portray the self as fundamentally performed and kaleidoscopically mediated. His approach is therefore exemplary of some of the key concepts of automediality, which, although originating in literary studies, address concerns relevant to contemporary art, such as the blurring of life-story, self-performance, identity, persona and technological mediation. I argue that Trecartin’s work is a form of automedial art that combines camp personas with what Sianne Ngai calls the “zany” aesthetics of neoliberalism—the 24/7 production of affects, subjectivity and sociability which complicate distinctions between public and private life.

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