Me, Myself and Art #16: Away From Keyboard

Kate Cooper, “Rigged” is at Kunstwerke Institute fot Contemporary Arts Berlin, taken with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.
Kate Cooper, “Rigged” is at Kunstwerke Institute fot Contemporary Arts Berlin, taken with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.

In our “Me, Myself and Art” series, in collaboration with Samsung Galaxy Alpha, Sleek takes an immersive approach to the art world. Via the medium of writer and stylist Ella Plevin, and her shiny new Samsung Galaxy Alpha, we bring the art world to you in a uniquely personalised way, utilising performance, selfies and video to present new perspectives on the art scene. Check out #SleekAlphaSelfie to win a phone for yourself. 

A final #SleekAlphaSelfie taken with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.
A final #SleekAlphaSelfie taken with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.

“Rigged” is British artist Kate Cooper’s first institutional show. I’m better acquainted with her project Auto Italia, an artist-run initiative co-founded by Cooper the same year I went to art school in South East London. I lived close to their cavernous original space, an old mechanics shop that gave the loose collective their name. Back then it was always known as “Auto Italia South East”, but the disappearance of cheap rents and empty spaces below the Thames line has probably inspired a more flexible moniker.

Taken with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.
Taken with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.

Cooper’s solo work is slick and flat in comparison to the ad-hoc sprawl of productivity I knew from Auto Italia. Their collaborative practise covered exhibitions, screenings, discussions, performances and the experimental television series “Auto Italia Live”, which cannibalised the broadcasting format, remodelling familiar tropes for a contemporary, connected audience.

Taken with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.
Taken with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.

The images at KW are seductively vacuous and glossy, pertaining to the commercial flawlessness of the female body in advertising and visual culture. The press release meditates on labour and gender in digital image circulation but I felt the work lacked a degree of cynicism in person. Cooper asks, “In our post-representational world – where images are dislocated and free-floating across networks – how can we renegotiate an agency to images, imbue them with power, make them work for us?” and I suppose the answer could be selfies. But does placing yourself in the frame actually endow you (or the image) with agency? Probably not. So is content production for social media platforms just another tool for subordination to the wheels of capital? Maybe! I mean, why do images even need power otherwise? It’s something I’ve been thinking about a lot during this project and the contradiction at its core: trying to infiltrate a world so overtly critical of capitalism (yet inextricably dependent on it) in order to market a product. The millennial cynic in me wants to answer all of the above with: ¯\_(._.)_/¯ …which is probably why I’m not an artist. 

"Site Visit" by Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch, taken with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.
“Site Visit” by Ryan Trecartin and Lizzie Fitch, taken with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.

Downstairs provides a welcome escape. It’s too dark to take any decent #SleekAlphaSelfies and too over-stimulating to continue any deep line of enquiry so I just sank into one of a sprawl of camping chairs and let Ryan Trecartin’s spaghetti bowl narrative pull me in 14 directions at once. “Site Visit” (made in collaboration with Trecartin’s long-time creative partner Lizzie Fitch) feels slightly more subdued than previous work.  It’s still deranged but lacks the precarity and neurotic overdrive that characterise “Center Jenny”, “A Family Finds Entertainment” or “I-Be Area”.

Taken with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.
Taken with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.

When I first stumbled across their work, I had no idea it was made by respected artists and not just some anonymous Internet freak: I saw “I-BE AREA” on Youtube and fell completely in love with this farrago of lunacy. I played it over and over, wondering who and what the fuck I was watching…and was slightly disappointed to learn it came from an art world context rather than some degenerate cult. On the screens at Kunstwerke, I recognised artists Natascha Goldenberg, Dena Yago and Rachel Lord alongside writers Chris Glazek and Kevin McGarry beneath layers of tan overbake, synthetic hair and jumbled explorer outfits. More mystery is lost: disappointingly, none of these people are as depraved or vacant in person as the roles they play in “SITE VISIT”.

Taken with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.
Taken with the Samsung Galaxy Alpha.

It’s an appropriate way to end this project: anonymously sprawled in the dark, feeling involved but isolated as I observe narratives unfurl on a screen. This is the mode of engagement for any contemporary audience and it’s certainly how I tend to engage with the art world. I don’t know if I’ve acquired any more agency or improved the view for anyone else by putting myself so literally in the frame, but I’m grateful to Samsung for dragging me away from my laptop twice a week to experience some great art IRL (whatever that means ¯\_(._.)_/¯ ).

Text by Ella Plevin

To see more from our Me, Myself and Art series and to enter to win a Samsung Galaxy Alpha of your own, check out our #SleekAlphaSelfie competition 

Check out previous entries here on our #SleekAlphaSelfie Tumblr

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