Monday, October 03, 2005

Artists of the Week (10/03/05)

I first encountered the work of husband-wife artist team Jennifer and Kevin McCoy when they participated in the first "Brewster Project" back in 2001. They had gained permission to broadcast from the local radio station, and their programming consisted of inviting passersby to enter the studio and improvise a description of the action taking place on video-taped episodes---sans any sound---of (I believe) "Starsky and Hutch." The radio audience heard only the account being described, nothing more, if I recall correctly. To be in the studio was delightful, as the atmosphere was light and fun, but to hear the broadcast was rather surreal. The voices were often clearly untrained, and what they were describing was unclear, but as each person took their turn, almost each of them got into a noticeable groove, so to speak. They quickly picked up on the way to describe what they saw in terms they may not have even realized they knew, throwing in sound effects here and there, picking up the tempo as to match the edits, improving their pacing to maximize the dramatic effects of it, etc.

I took this performance/experience to be an exploration of the secret vocabulary we all acquire from watching TV and film, but don't necessarily share with each other in our day-to-day lives. Kind of like the scene in Risky Business where Tom Cruise dances in his briefs, we can't help but absorb the various body language and facial expressions, not to mention stylized vocabulary, of the "reality" presented on TV and in films...the short-cuts we accept as signifying something we encounter in our world.

Jennfier and Kevin McCoy, How I Learned and 448 is Enough, 2002, Installation view at Postmasters gallery (image from
Postmasters website)

The McCoys are best known for their staggeringly detailed examinations of these bits of vocabularly. Represented in New York by Postmasters gallery and in Geneva by Galerie Guy Bartschi, they spend untold months databasing TV shows into groups of similar actions/segments. For their first solo exhibition at Postmasters, for example, in a piece titled In "Every Shot/Every Episode," they've reorganized, as suggested, every shot from every episode of the TV series "Starsky and Hutch" by descriptive category, such as "Every establishing shot," "Every rescue," Every ordering of food," "Every female cop," etc. These collections are presented in beautiful high-tech cases, and viewers can select the CD category they wish to view (see below).

Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, "Every Shot/Every Episode" as it was originally installed in the exhibition "Technically Engaged" at the A.I.R. Gallery in New York, January 2001 (image from the artists' website).

For their second exhibition at Postmasters they invited the viewer behind the scenes a bit more with an installation of seven miniature stage sets with figures for stereotypical film genres, like 80's slasher films, the 50's melodrama, or 60's art film. For "Soft Rains," they set lights and over 50 cameras around these tiny sets, send the feed through a computer program that randomly selects and then projects the shots, in what amounts to a short film of 6 to 10 shots. As the gallery press release for this exhibition explains, "the McCoy handle the passage of time by spreading “actors” and locations out in space to represent different moments, which are then intercut onscreen to suggest movement in time and place." See two images below:

Jennifer and Kevin McCoy, Soft Rains, 2004, installation views (image from the Postmasters website).

UPDATE: Here's a great review of the McCoy's work by Brian Sholis.

Afterword: The McCoys are exhibiting widely now, and given how time-consuming their projects are, it's impressive that they recently took time out to participate in the block party "The Kitchen" (a performance space in Chelsea) held on 19th Street. With a photo booth setup, they invited passersby to pose as "Kevin" with Jennifer. Yours truly had a "wardrobe malfunction" snapped by the talented art critic (and as of late, occasional blogger) Brian Sholis, who was kind enough to forward it to me. Don't's not polite:


Anonymous bambino said...

Nice pic :)

10/03/2005 01:09:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

I'm glad you like it...I was thinking about growing my hair that long and starting a moustache!

10/03/2005 01:11:00 PM  
Blogger Mark said...

Weird Edward Yankovic. :)

10/03/2005 02:31:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...


yeah, I think my long hair days are all behind me...although the 'stache and glasses look is still a possibility. It was impossible to see anything through those things, which is why my eyes are mere slits.

Looking at the site of other people I can barely recognize anyone in that disguise. Even the folks I knew were after me, I only assume that's them. Very simple, but very altering props.

10/03/2005 02:36:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

hello ed... a big thanks to you and everyone who participated in the kitchen fair and wore the hot (as in temperature) was a very interesting day!
j + k

10/04/2005 09:31:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

It's a wonderful project J&K...thanks; for the kind words.

Love your work.

10/04/2005 09:57:00 PM  

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