“Mark Leckey: Containers and Their Drivers”

Art, Contemporary art
4 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

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One of the more telling works in Mark Leckey’s MoMA PS1 survey isn’t even by the 2008 Turner Prize winner: It’s a painting by German Minimalist/Primitivist Michael Krebber (one of several guest artists appearing at Leckey’s invitation), featuring a crude, handwritten replica of a bad review of Leckey’s 2011 exhibition at London’s Serpentine Gallery. The headline reads, mark leckey’s art creates noise without meaning, and while that’s meant as an insult, it (and the rest of the article) supremely misses the point: Leckey’s art is supposed to be about noise without meaning—or at least effecting that stance to get at larger truths about contemporary culture.

Leckey’s multimedia installations dive into the ways in which technology transmits the shared fashions, ideas, ideologies, values and appetites that bind us as a society. The upshot, of course, is that the more this information is accelerated by ever-rapid means, the more it devolves into babble—a point reflected by an often-raucous show in which screens and speakers blare a cacophony of sights and sounds. Leckey’s message may not be new, but he delivers it with panache.

The artist’s earliest—and still best-known—piece is an edited compilation of VHS club-scene tapes depicting ravers dancing, spinning and otherwise having out-of-body experiences on ecstasy. Sourced from veteran DJs, the material in “Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore” (1999) spans the late ’70s to the early ’90s in a delirious montage of found footage set to hypnotic snatches of jungle and hardcore music. Fiorucci was the preferred retailer of fashion-forward attire for club kids at the time, and one of the ironies Leckey essays is the notion of rebellious youth declaring their independence by donning mass-marketed uniforms.

A running theme is the relationship between memory and replication—both means of retention that are ultimately unreliable to a degree. Two tableau installations make the point with displays of copies of both images and objects taken from high and low culture: the phallic sculpture, for example, that appeared in A Clockwork Orange or a Cyberman helmet from Doctor Who. Made with a 3-D printer, neither would be mistaken for the original, yet as Leckey suggests, that no longer seems to matter.

The work that best summarizes Leckey’s concerns, perhaps, is his video of a 2009 lecture/performance in which he repurposes the theory of the Long Tail (in economics, the proposition that the internet allows less-popular products to command market share) to explain how obscure references can dominate the cultural dialogue as memes. Leckey starts cogently enough but soon descends into something resembling a psychotic breakdown.

Senseless? Yes. But Leckey reminds us that senselessness can be compelling. In the real world, you need only look at the 2016 election to see how.


Event website: http://www.momaps1.org
Event phone: 718-784-2084
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