“I would prefer not to.” Spelled out in a bright, warm yellow on the gallery’s front windows, this text work by Alterazioni Video (which borrows a refrain from Herman Melville’s Bartleby the Scrivener) is a distillation of the collective’s contrarian sensibility. Displayed to function as a title for the show, it also sometimes mingles with works inside the gallery, as when, in midday light, it whimsically projects its colored reflection onto the floor.
Often intimate in scale and sparely installed, the new works by Alterazioni Video—a collaborative established in Milan in 2004 whose participating artists are Paololuca Barbieri Marchi, Alberto Caffarelli, Matteo Erenbourg, Andrea Masu and Giacomo Porfiri—take advantage of the Internet’s unpredictable expressive possibilities. Intrigued by the Web’s blend of proximity and distance, intimacy and impersonality, the artists set up a search, using Google and similar engines, for visual equivalents of simple key words associated with various notions of love. They then transposed some of the strangely compelling images they found into paintings, sculptures, film, performance and a slide projection. The 14 works on view conjure an elliptical collective love story defying linear logic.
Six captivating “paintings” convey the sometimes humorous hybridity of the source material. Its mutability is expressed in imagery favoring grotesque juxtapositions, flattened space and vivid hues. Untitled (Google painting), 2009, a silkscreen on canvas, is an impossible portrait of a skier in a bright red suit, her head replaced by a brown dog with its tongue sticking out. The dog’s larger-than-life, all-teeth smile is equipped with a pair of bright-red lips of great Pop boldness. Next to it, the sculpture If You Can Read This Thank a Veteran (2009) invokes our war-torn times. Lying face down on a couch covered in flowery, digitally patterned fabric is a mannequin of a soldier whose uniform is printed in digitally generated camouflage; his combat boots are standard-issue. During the opening reception, one of the artists, lying perfectly still, took the mannequin’s place.
People, Objects & Landscape (2009) is a slide projection of 162 photomontages shown in a sequence of dissolves; its appropriated Internet images have been transferred to a Kodak film that is destined for oblivion. Here, portraits of unknown people caught in quotidian, often funny poses find themselves immersed in completely unrelated backgrounds, producing wittily surreal compositions. Nearby, in the same room, audio recordings of covers of favorite love songs, downloaded from YouTube and Facebook, run on a low-fi acoustic device.
Aiming to foster new forms of critical thinking, Alterazioni Video attempts to bridge art and life. And so it does, here, tapping into fathomless reserves of imagery, reference and metaphor culled from life on the Web. Creating tangible embodiments of otherwise ethereal visual matter, it offers its own distinctive glimpses of an open-ended world community.
Photo above: Alterazioni Video: If You Can Read This Thank a Veteran, 2009, couch, digital print on fabric, mannequin and mixed mediums, 371⁄2 by 763⁄4 by 351⁄2 inches; at Prometeogallery.