Cory Arcangel: An Unassuming Master of New Media

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A cat playing the piano is funny, but a sequence of cats playing an atonal composition by Arnold Schoenberg is both brilliant and absurd. One of the latest works from digital artist Cory Arcangel, Drei Klavierstucke, Op.11 is a compilation of fragments from found YouTube videos that captures a variety of cats walking on piano keys, each producing a note. Edited together, they recreate a dynamic piece of modernist music.

Starting with a youthful interest in music, video, and computers, Arcangel has become the international poster boy for new-media art and has exhibited his experimental, witty works in galleries and museums around the world. At present, 13 of his hacked video games, altered feature films, and Internet manipulations are wowing viewers in a survey show at the Netherlands Media Art Institute in Amsterdam.

Besides the crazy cats, the survey show — titled Depreciated, in reference to software that is no longer supported — includes several standout works. Permanent Vacation (2007) consists of a pair of computers that continuously message one another emails that read “Out of Office” until their hard drives fill up and crash, which could take 24 years. Self-Playing Sony Playstation 1 Bowling (2008) is a bowling game that has been modified to endlessly throw gutter balls, and the completely comical Untitled Translation Exercise (2006) is a dubbed version of Richard Linklater’s cult film Dazed and Confused. Arcangel had the staff of an Indian outsourcing company read the parts in English, but their unique Indian accents turn it into a surreal production.

Another film appropriation that makes something new of the original is Colors (2006), which abstracts Dennis Hopper’s film about LA gang violence into vertical color bars. Meanwhile, early works on view — such as I Shot Andy Warhol (2002), which employs an arcade-game hand pistol to shoot at Andy, Pope John Paul II, Flava Flav, and Colonel Sanders; Super Mario Clouds V2K3 (2002), which reduces the old Nintendo video game to a minimal field of moving clouds; and the simple landscape pulled from Japanese Driving Game (2004) — show the artist at his media-manipulating best.

An experimental artist with no pretension about whether he is making art or just having fun, Arcangel has found a way to use technology to express himself and, in the process, to ironically mirror culture at large.

Cory Arcangel: Depreciated continues at the Netherlands Media Art Institute through November 14.

Cory Arcangel, Drei Klavierstücke, op. 11, 2009, Projection from a digital source, Dimensions variable, Duration: 16 minutes, Edition of five, Courtesy Team Gallery, New York

Cory Arcangel, Super Mario Clouds v2k3, 2002, Handmade hacked Nintendo Game system and cartridge, Dimensions variable, Edition of five, Courtesy Team Gallery, New York

Cory Arcangel, I don't want to spoil the party, 2007, Projection from a digital source, Dimensions variable, Edition of five, Courtesy Team Gallery, New York

Cory Arcangel, I Shot Andy Warhol, 2002, Handmade hacked video game, game system, and gun, Dimensions variable, Edition of five, Courtesy Team Gallery, New York

Cory Arcangel, Sweet 16, 2006, Projection from a digital source, Dimensions variable, Edition of five, Courtesy Team Gallery, New York

Cory Arcangel, Japanese Driving Game, 2004, Handmade hacked Nintendo FamiCom cartridge, Edition of five, Courtesy Team Gallery, New York

Cory Arcangel, Untitled Translation Exercise, 2006, In collaboration with Ben Jones and friend, Projection from a digital source, Dimensions variable, Edition of five, Courtesy Team Gallery, New York

Cory Arcangel, Colors, 2006, Courtesy Team Gallery, New York