Breaking Games: Cory Arcangel

Cory Arcangel’s pieces consist primarily of hacked and re-coded video games, spliced videos, and sculptures that reference pop culture. He got his start on Nintendo NES cartridges by removing all aspects of games like Super Mario Bros and just leaving a slow byproduct of it, like the clouds in the background moving slowly and aimlessly across the screen. His shows consist of reworked popular culture such as video games, movies and music, and functions on Photoshop.

His art is really interesting, although it took me a minute to understand what I was looking at. I didn’t understand why he would just re-purpose Mario clouds, but the effect of doing so is almost peaceful. It’s just clouds, small and digital, floating by on their blank blue space. His use of simple designs, like the rainbow images, are bold but not difficult to understand. After all, it’s just a function in Photoshop that made it happen.

Photoshop CS series

His sculptures, too, are unique and reflect the idea of the 2000s. The rotating displays really interested me mostly because, upon scrolling past them, their shape seemed to distort the image in which they were held. Their design is intended to be dynamic, but even the image still reflected their unusual moving capability.

Research in Motion (Kinetic Sculpture #6), 2011

A World of Collage: Rashaad Newsome

Rashaad Newsome has some interesting styles. His website features his digital works, including videos and pictures of his collages. He uses all kinds of different media (including remote controls) to create his pieces. His works are expressive and entrancing, showing parts of the world that you might not see if they were still attached to their original context.

From the video “Stop Playing in My Face,” 2016

When I was first researching Newsome, I had a hard time understanding what was going on. I pulled up his website and (on mute) skipped around the first video that showed up. Of course, after doing a little more research, I decided to play the video all the way through and listen to the content. And it was so strange and beautiful. The people standing on the stage were using expressions of frustration, annoyance, disappointment, and anger that I have never seen in such a detached, controlled environment. The faces and gestures of the performers reflected exactly what their sounds meant, and its gradual amplification was hypnotizing.

After watching this performance, I started to really understand and enjoy the rest of Newsome’s works. His representation of life and contextualization of his works stuck with me. His works are something incredibly genuine and artistic in a way that’s both complex and easy to understand — once you unmute the video.

A still from the “King of Arms” collage, 2013

Floating Signs: Matt Siber’s Works

Yellow/Gray and Red/Green, 2015

While looking up Matt Siber, I found that most of his work revolves around highways and the objects you would find around them. From steel girders to signs against the road, he took what he found and touched it with a hint of surrealism. The signs now float, the steel is a stoplight, the gas station is only a shelter.

Cheese, 2006

I love art made of industrial materials and styles, so these works hit home with me pretty quickly. Siber takes it to the next level by removing some parts or another to recreate a new vision with the same materials. The Red/Green sculptures imitate traffic lights without hanging from a wire, the Cheese sign hangs ominously in the sky, telling you what you need to know without the support of its home object. The Lighted Shelter is a little world that smells like gas despite it looking entirely clean. I love the detached world that Siber makes in his art.

Lighted Shelter, 2015

The First Video Artist: Nam June Paik

Nam June Paik is considered the “Father of Video Art”, according to the Smithsonian’s page on him. His art consists largely of TV sculptures that form different shapes. The TVs usually remain on and reflect the sculpture itself, becoming a part of the art in its own way.

“Technology” 1991

The sculptures and video art pieces were an innovative way to use video as a medium when the practice was brand new. His works inspired many people to create digital works that have physical forms and visual interpretations.

“Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii” 1995

Works like this Electronic Superhighway capture America in laser lighting as well as imagery within the televisions, making the piece twofold in terms of its identity. Each set of screens within a state reflect the culture one might find there, making the piece glow and create a world unlike any other.

Works like these inspired bright, vibrant, and sometimes chilling recreations of the technology that was taking the world by storm, like this “TV Cello” piece that could actually be played. Its sound is nothing like one would expect from a simple string instrument, and the video itself is eerie and artistic in its angles and focuses between the sounds, cellist, and cello screens which also show the cellist playing it.

These pieces are incredibly interesting to look at and research, having no precedent. The US map caught my eye mostly due to the bright colors of the borders. It kept my attention, however, when I started looking at the various screens, trying to find imagery I recognized in the states I knew. Its captivating images are interesting and overall just nice to look at. Upon looking up information about Nam June Paik, I read about the cello before seeing it. I thought it was just a sculpture at first, but then I stumbled upon the video. The sounds it made were unexpected (although it’s obviously not a real cello, so I don’t know what I was expecting), but its eeriness similarly drew me in and I thought it would be valuable to show to others. The lengths to which Paik went to create not only a TV Cello, but one that can be played and has functional screens, is beyond impressive. His works are innovative and original even after the years we have had with the technology that he started with.

“Watchdog II” 1997

Sources: Artsy, Smithsonian American Art Museum