Disjoint realities: Ryan Trecartin and Leigh Ledare (continued)

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Ryan Trecartin

Despite appearances, however, Ryan Trecartin's productions are far from random, structured around a "highly scripted" core which, the artist points out, is nonetheless always open to improvisation:

"Every kind of collaboration possible pretty much happens in these movies. A large majority of the scenes are completely scripted, but there are some shoots that are more goal oriented.

The structure of the script evolves in real time and experimentation always happens. Certain performers ... always go beyond the script into interpretation and improvisation. It all depends on the content of the scene, the agenda and the potential goals."

Cleverly, too, Trecartin's scripts consist of short, staccato takes which not only increase a sense of fragmentation, but allow performers to learn lines rapidly as the shoot progresses. With the need for rehearsal minimised, the cast easily invoke the spontaneity of 'reality' TV and confessional video formats.

Trecartin, who was born in 1981, cites watching MTV music videos with babysitters as his earliest identifiable creative influence. Video games and the web started to make their presence felt later, but were ubiquitous in the US by the time he reached his teens.

He suggests, however, that the youngest audiences - those who have never known life without the internet - are the ones who best understand his work, relating with ease to his absurdist dramas.

Ryan Trecartin

Yet it's possible, even likely, that in terms of artistic recognition and status Trecartin's work actually strikes the deepest chords with an older generation: the critics and cultural observers who can, for example, still remember seeing a typewriter in use, and for whom the advance of digital technology remains a development that requires charting through specific creative acknowledgement.

For them, in particular, Trecartin represents a white knight of modernity, a tangible statement of change in an art world which has never quite nailed the essence of digital reality as opposed to exploring its possibilities.

There is, however, also a certain naivety to Trecartin's work which, while admittedly intrinsic to his vision, fails to equate with the realities of online and virtual consumption - or, indeed, the documented changes in contemporary lifestyles this consumption entails.

Violence, for example, is notably absent from his movies, subsumed into general on-screen mayhem and an occasional trashing of sets and props. Such disruption is a far cry from the graphic brutality that pervades much new media in general, and gaming in particular.

Sexuality, too - that undeniable mainstay of the internet - is largely non-existent in Trecartin's brave new world, negated by what he terms "non-gender-centric" characters whose most risque antics amount to little more than a bump 'n' grind eroticism.

All of which points to a slightly coy, even romanticised view of an envisaged new idiom where, the artist believes, "... all media meet. As TV, internet, art, games and movies all start moving towards the same point, I want to be part of inventing that space."

It's important, of course, to view Trecartin's "transitional world" as both a parody and fantasy; an enterprise that apes aspects of contemporary media consumption while rejecting others in the quest for a larger creative vision.

But in a very real sense, the artist's disjoint realities are even more disjunctive than they first appear. Excising the more unsavoury aspects of our generalised media experience, what Trecartin presents, in the words of one of his characters, is "Your life but better, with edits! With edits!"


Disjoint realities, continued >

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