College party culture lives on in this characterful, high-octane, post-reality TV multimedia exhibition. If you’re after a relaxing meander around a gallery, this is not the exhibition for you. If, however, you are after satirical videos of gender identity-confused characters on a rites of passage tip, then you’ve hit the jackpot.
Long-time collaborators Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin have transferred their 2013 Venice Biennale offering, ‘Priority Innfield’ to the Zabludowicz Collection. Through four films, specially created viewing stages and an all-encompassing audio work, the gallery has been turned into a site of riotous partying, where absurd characters act out even more absurd scenarios.
Stand-alone installations that resemble familiar American suburban locations – like the pool house or the bleachers – situate the viewer within the same settings as the characters on film. College sweatshirts and baseball caps lie discarded in one space, while red plastic party cups have been scattered in another.
In ‘Item Falls’ a group of contestants are auditioning for a part in a ‘gaming system’ that looks remarkably like a university. Jostling hand-held cameras follow the weird opponents clad in trashy clothes, creating a cacophony as they taunt and undermine each other. Covered in special-effects makeup, they speak in an accentuated, sarcastic drawl. One asserts, ‘Hey everyone, I went to community college,’ another shrieks, ‘You know she dit-ten!’
This kind of discombobulated action repeats through all the films. ‘Center Jenny’ chronicles a group of university girls competing to become the ultimate Jenny. The credits of ‘Priority Innfield’ are a tirade of blooper clips, animated overlay and eardrum-bursting sound effects. ‘Junior War’ brings everything into perspective. Made while Trecartin was at high school in Ohio, the 24-minute video documents the annual battle between junior and senior pupils, their rebellious exploits anticipating the sophomoric activities on display throughout this exhibition.
Don’t be fooled by the doofus cyborgs that populate these hallucinogenic worlds. Trecartin and Fitch speak to our selfie-obsessed, status-conscious YouTube generation in order to question the importance of identity and free will. It might be frivolous, but it’s mighty powerful.