A new round of five Art Breaks videos launches today on MTV. Artists contribute 30-second videos that will be seen by MTV's 600 million global viewers, starting with Guido van der Werve today and Andrew Kuo, Divya Mehra, Semâ Bekirovic and Cody Critcheloe (SSION) to follow over the coming month. The project is a collaboration with New York public art organization Creative Time and New York's MoMA PS1.
This is the second installment of a project that launched earlier this year with Mads Lynnerup, Tala Madani, Rashaad Newsome, Jani Ruscica in collaboration with Sinii Pelkki, and Mickalene Thomas. The project revives a series that aired in 1985 with videos by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Richard Prince and others.
MTV hosted a screening and a discussion on Wednesday afternoon at its Times Square facility, with Bekirovic, Critcheloe, Kuo, Mehra and Newsome in attendance. MTV president Stephen Friedman introduced the screening by pointing out, a little oddly, that "our audience is always looking for a way to break in to whatever looks totally different from anything on our channel."
Van der Werve's Concert for Piano and the Exact Volume of Tears Cried on Earth at any Given Moment (or 211,5 liters per second) shows a pianist at the edge of a body of water, who gets drenched by a giant waterspout. It airs today through Nov. 22.
Kuo's understatedly funny piece, Now and Later, mimics a cable-television menu as a viewer scrolls through channels and sees previews of various programs. But the text that's supposed to summarize each program instead says things like "I wonder if there's actually a human named ‘Al Dente.' And if he's nice."
"I tried to make the quietest thing I could in the biggest context," he said.
Mehra explained that her video, On Tragedy (Did you hear the one about the Indian?), screening Nov. 26-Dec. 3, riffs on Prince's 1985 video, in which he buys a vanilla cone from an ice cream truck outside the Guggenheim Museum and proclaims himself "one of the best-kept secrets in the art world."
"In his video, he's like, ‘I'm an artist, and I'm awesome,'" she said. Her video shows her buying a cone from a truck at the same spot, and dropping the ice cream. "In mine, I'm like, ‘I'm not awesome.'"
Bekirovic's dramatic contribution (Dec. 3-10) shows a scary-looking hunting knife falling through the air, with earth and sky spinning around it and the wind roaring. Yes, the artist explained, "I threw a dagger out of a plane. It was attached to a camera. It was supposed to land on this parachuting landing ground, but instead it landed in a cornfield. It took us hours to find it."
Critcheloe's SOMETIMES I THINK ABOUT YOU EVERYDAY (airing Dec. 10–17) maintains the artist's customary format, the music video, in which the heavily costumed artist performs. The cuts are quick, the colors and graphics bright. "I make music videos, so I thought this project would be pretty easy," he deadpanned. "And it was."
An audience member asked whether any of the artists considered doing something oppositional, intervening in a more confrontational way on the giant corporation that is MTV.
"That was my first inclination," Kuo said, "but I felt like that would be an old-fashioned narrative. An adversarial reaction is less rewarding than just doing something I love in any available format."
Mehra agreed, though she admitted, "My first inclination is generally to be a giant asshole."
Besides, the artists all seemed to agree, why mess with a young audience, which by definition has great taste? "Young kids are into the coolest stuff," said Kuo.
Newsome, too, aligned himself with all those young eyeballs. "Part of that is my eyes too."