Cory Arcangel at Lisson Gallery

Brooklyn-based Cory Arcangel is very much an artist of his time. Adapting and manipulating visual culture in the popular domain, 'currentmood' at Lisson Gallery, NW1, blurs the boundary between high and low culture. Upon entering the space, this exhibition feels like a room full of iPhones or mac computers, as large high definition screens showcase the artist's array of prints and moving image pieces. Much like the stimulation of our minds on a daily basis by phones, tablets, computers and the like, Arcangel hones in on the instant gratification and cartoonish elements of the everyday. This is not quite a showcase of the banal, instead depicting the everyday world of light entertainment and, intriguingly, hints of celebrity obsession.

There seems to be something of a reverse timeline in 'currentmood', as the laser prints of 'Line' come first in the show. Looking back somewhat nostalgically at celebrity and internet culture, 'Line' is a sobering start, as we are presented with twenty identical reproductions of a simple pencil drawing formation, printed on a Mutoch XP-300 Series printer. Within the topic of identity construction via the internet and the ways in which we use it to express ourselves, beginning with this method of reproducing a pattern in an insultingly simple way showcases our current predicament perfectly, whether this is in the form of social media profiles, online dating or the use of Photoshop and 3D printing.

Cory Arcangel, Uber of Weed. Chromogenic print, 168.2cm x 96cm x 4cm. Lisson Gallery, London.

Looking at the ways we express ourselves will inevitably come bound with ways in which certain social groups are represented. In the free-for-all that is the cyber world, interestingly we can begin to decipher how we observe each other and, most importantly for this exhibition, how these social groups may be entrenched in stereotypes. With this in mind, 'Uber of Weed' is a borderline uncomfortable piece; the third work in the exhibition, this is the first explicit indicator of celebrity culture, and we see globally renowned rapper Kanye West leaving a vehicle, presumably caught by the paparazzi. While West is one of the world's most recognised and, importantly, famous celebrities, Arcangel's chosen title for the work perhaps suggests more about the themes he is unpacking than the work itself. Highlighting the quality of black male role models as well as the drug reference implying a connection with stop-and-search strategies in urban areas, the artist makes a challenging statement concerning the repercussions of fame in the public domain and how an individual's identity may steer a certain public persona.

The contemporary art viewer will be familiar with themes on Western materialism and unprecedented levels of waste, so Arcangel's stance is a refreshingly different one, where we find a potentially new, immaterial materialism. Where celebrity obsession prevails, perpetuated by social media platforms such as Twitter and Snapchat, where users are duped into feeling a close connection with their idols, this creates an infatuation between user and device, where the myriad platforms, apps etc. are housed. While this remains a materialistic mentality, the ideas and themes are very much based on a utopian sensation of community and knowledge.  

Installation view: Cory Arcangel, currentmood. Lisson Gallery, London.
Image courtesy of Lisson Gallery

In a world of endless internet links and pages, Arcangel's video and photographic works do not possess the shock factor. While their colour palettes are generally vibrant to the point of being jarring, they bear highly familiar resemblances to the screens of our various technological devices. Cleverly, this is contrasted against the screeching soundtrack of the titular sonic work, being played from a large soundsystem hanging from the ceiling. Given the advantageous airy space of the gallery, this is logistically a welcome addition to the show, and highlights the comfortable, if not stagnant, condition we share with our cyber surroundings. This is the complex sensation provided throughout the show, as the artist highlights our fascination with the world through the lens of the media and how this is warped accordingly for various ends..

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