There is no rewind button for life - Mark Amerika's endless work in progress
Curated by Ana Carvalho
Opening: 26.03 — 21h30
For over a decade we have witnessed the emergence of mobile photography and videography. The film Immobilité (2007-2009), by intermedia artist Mark Amerika, was perhaps the first artwork to use a mobile phone as a tool for capturing footage in the construction of a feature film. In Immobilité (the title is a pun on the nature of mobile phones), Amerika combines text, mobile videography and an experimental electronic soundtrack to tell an intertwined fictional-theoretical-factual story about a trio of nomadic recluses who spend their time capturing images of both themselves and the otherworldly landscape they attempt to survive in.
To produce digital art from the cultural ocean of information is central to the work of Mark Amerika. If remix, as “cultural glue” (Eduardo Navas), serves as the go-to information behaviour to put together digital matter, then it’s the Baudrillardian simulacra that sets its territory for the artistic actions of Mark Amerika. Cultural objects, digitized or digital native, become primary source material at the disposal of each artist’s process of constructing what Amerika terms imaginary digital media objects, a post-production strategy that grows out of what Nicolas Bourriaud referred to as a “cultural screenplay,” one that artists manipulate to “reprogram the world.” Now that endless streams of data are available, our neighbour’s gardens have been seen through fences instead of walls. “Covet They Neighbour’s Source Code,” Amerika writes in his remix of the Ten Commandments. Which is exactly what he does. Amerika operates as a performance persona where everything is fair game as long as it feeds into our creative process. Once we intuitively select our preferred source material, we are then free to manipulate our forever work in progress the same way our own consciousness has now become a mutable form of playable media. The quaint notion of original creation is no longer necessary (was it ever?). All is in process of potentially becoming part of endlessly new combinations. Under this perspective, the role of the arist-as-editor becomes central, and the cut/paste “lifestyle practice” (as Amerika phrases it), that is, the natural selection of both actions and digital tools, become body extensions of the performer. Besides, wasn’t creation always recreation?
To use a phone as a tool for a feature film production requires the artist to be immersed in the practice of everyday digital life and the artist playing the lead character in his or her own story gives way to a plethora of digital personas actively intervening in different contexts. As in the work of other contemporary artists such as Eleanor Antin, Lynn Hershman Leeson, and Amelia Ulman, Mark Amerika’s personas range from the blogger-artist known as Professor VJ to the artist-teacher Walt Whitman Benjamin to the writer-remixer known as The Playgiarist to the mythological Artist 2.0, among an immense list of others and extending to collaborative works and collective personas.
His experimental forms of text evolve as part of what he terms “an expanded concept of writing,” stretching the word’s presence from book to video to live performance, and emerge from an intmate dialogue with authors, artists and writers, among them, Alfred North Whitehead, Chris Marker, Ingmar Bergman, Kathy Acker, Hélène Cixous, Clarice Lispector, Marcel Duchamp, Jacques Derrida and William Burroughs. In Amerika’s body of work, especially the collection of video artworks featured in There is no rewind button for life, the act of remixing becomes a form of conversation. Similar to the Situationist strategies for producing work from everyday life, Amerika uses on-the-fly recontextualizations of whatever source material is available at any given moment in time to create a glitch in soul of the machine. What emerges is a series of unexpected mash-ups that aesthetically rendered an ontologically disruptive presence in the field of distribution.
The exhibition at the Maus Hábitos art gallery presents the work of Mark Amerika in different video formats at the intersection of multiple genres and art practices: video-pedagogy, video-essay, music video, video-clip, video-glitch, and video-poetry. Performing for the camera, recording from Google Maps, and images from within the depth of the Internet archive are combined with 3D animations and featuring the work of Mark Amerika’s, we see the ongoingness of Amerika’s postproduction style as the life of the artist and the endless work of art become inseparable.
Mark Amerika is a University of Colorado Boulder Professor of Distinction where he is the Founding Director of the Doctoral Program in Intermedia Art, Writing and Performance in the College of Media, Communication and Information and a Professor of Art and Art History. Amerika, who in 2001 was selected as a Time Magazine 100 Innovator, has exhibited his artwork internationally at venues such as the Whitney Biennial of American Art, the Denver Art Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, and the Walker Art Center. In 2009-2010, The National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens, Greece, hosted Amerika’s comprehensive retrospective exhibition entitled UNREALTIME. In 2009, Amerika released Immobilité, generally considered the first feature-length art film ever shot on a mobile phone. He is the author of many books including remixthebook (University of Minnesota Press), META/DATA: A Digital Poetics (The MIT Press), remixthecontext (Routledge) and Locus Solus: An Inappropriate Translation Composed in a 21st Century Manner (Counterpath Press). His expansive transmedia artwork, Museum of Glitch Aesthetics, was commissioned by the Abandon Normal Devices Festival in conjunction with the London 2012 Olympics. The project has been remixed by curators for physical exhibitions, including Amerika’s exhibitions ‘Museum of Glitch Aesthetics’ at the AND Festival, ‘Glitch. Click. Thunk’ at the University of Hawaii Art Galleries and ‘GlitchMix: not an error’ in Havana, Cuba.