What to Expect from Ryan Trecartin’s New Show at MoMA PS1


If you have encountered the videos of artist Ryan Trecartin — whose work is like John Waters meets after school specials for the internet age — then it has most likely been online. This is why experiencing Ryan Trecartin: Any Ever, the new exhibit of seven of his videos at MoMA PS1, each of which has its own theatrical installation, is a unique opportunity that should not be missed. The “theme-park like experience,” conceived with artist and collaborator Lizzie Fitch, and the first large-scale exhibition in New York of Trecartin’s work exquisitely realizes the haunting and timeless suburban dreamscapes of the movies.

Large cushy couches furnish the room of The Re’Search, which features most of the characters in Any Ever including a group of brash tweens with painted faces spouting phrases like “I can’t expect your age group to understand my personality.” Colorful handbags strewn across the floor ease your communion with the film’s characters and their odd and entrancing logic. In another room, painted entirely white, with a pile of plastic mobile stairs before the screen, and giant white planters at the back, you watch a group of 20-somethings frolic in a car, a scene replete with crotch shots, backseat imbibing, and other examples of bad behavior mocking a celebrity culture complicit in its own exploitation. A different room is outfitted with tropical patio furniture chained together, while yet another provides rows of airplane seats. The dialogue in the videos is a tangle of phrases seemingly drawn from corporate speak, the Mall of America, and Jersey Shore, both familiar sounding and uncanny, worked over, stylized and assembled in a complex, sophisticated, and disorienting poetic structure.

MoMA PS1 director Klaus Biesenbach told us that what appealed to him about the work was Trecartin’s advanced handling of the “American vernacular.” And while the vernacular can be heady, what the movies lose in traditional narrative clarity, they gain in a broader interplay of reappearing characters, themes, and details that offer the option of a more selective and personalized read as you work your way from Trill-ogy Comp through Re’Search Wait’S. Trecartin spoke of how “personal agency” was an important factor in developing the installations. “The components relate in a conceptual way in editorializing the work,” he told us. The physical space is designed to encourage the viewer to engage in “the act of reading [the film].” Whether you choose to follow the characters JJ, Wait, or Global Korea, here is a selection of the films to give an idea of what awaits at MoMA PS1.

K-CoreaINC.K (section a) from Trill-ogy Comp

“I’m fucking pissed at USA K, she won’t return my phone K,” says one of the “Koreas” in K-CoreaINC.K (section a). The Koreas are a high-strung gang of blonde-wigged, business-attired, corporate shells who have assimilated a range of reductive global stereotypes and speak in a frenzied bouillon of English, Spanglish, and gibberish exaggerated through artful pitch-shifting. Led by their CEO “Global Korea” (hilariously portrayed by designer Telfar Clemens), they are involved in an endless “meeting” that takes place in multiple locations, from airplanes to boardrooms. The resulting narrative carefully evades a traditional arc in favor of loosely connected sequences which often fade out into meditative music and infomercial graphics that bear messages like, “Don’t feel examplized.”

Sibling Topics (section a) from Trill-ogy Comp

In this video, Trecartin plays four siblings — Ceader, Britt, Adobe, and Deno — who personal boundaries are blurred and whose group dynamic is both familial and eerily corporate. Take Brit for example, a tanned, and confident teen who offers advice and pronouncements to the camera like, “being post-family and pre-hotel ends today for me,” or “being abandoned is like wearing a sexy necklace — you’re free to take it off.”

P.opular S.ky (section ish) from Trill-ogy Comp

P.opular S.ky brings together many characters from the other videos in Any Ever with some of the most high-pitched, fast-paced editing of all the films and more dreamy graphic interludes. The characters are possessed of more poetic sensibilities, though the results of their lyrical intentions, and the complementary hand gestures and head nods, are humorous: “When the time comes, you won’t understand the battlefield in all of its multi-complexities.” The character Brit has some of our favorite lines, “I’ve been a CEO since birth,” and “I’m looking for a group dynamic.”

Ready from Re’Search Wait’S

In Ready — the first of the four films in the series Re’Search Wait’S, which includes The Re’Search, Roamie View: History Enhancement, and Temp Stop — Trecartin plays Wait, a character whose existential musings over the decision to choose a job over a career reveal the sharp and resonant prose stylings in evidence everywhere in these videos: “My personal really concise pussy is creating a very inner monologue that I’m not going to share with you as I become dynamic.” Another favorite: “I love learning about myself through other peoples’ products.” Lizzie Fitch portrays the character “Able,” who positions herself as a hobbyist alternating between jobs and a career. Veronica Gelbaum is unforgettable as Ready, the careerist who panders Transumerism (experience-driven consumerism), and who trades in her values in favor of the assumption of “total career control.”

The Re’Search from Re’Search Wait’S

This movie provides variations on sequences seen in other sections of Any Ever. Many of the characters from Any Ever reappear here as younger “tween” versions of themselves. This piece serves as the market research collected by Wait for the character Ready.

Roamie View: History Enhancement from Re’Search Wait’S

Trecartin portrays the character JJ, a shell of the character he is in the other movies in Any Ever (as in Ready). JJ hires Roamie Hood’s company to travel back through time to find an “opportunity for an edit” to change his present circumstances.