Alex Da Corte and Jayson Musson

Philadelphia

at Institute of Contemporary Art

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Easternsports (2014) is a collaborative installation by Alex Da Corte and Jayson Musson with two and a half hours of atmospheric video on four channels, and a disjointed essay-poem of tens of thousands of words running through the subtitles. Any account of its content aspiring to comprehensiveness would be as big as the work itself. Easier to describe is the palette. Mustard, lavender, avocado, ocher and a spectrum of pinks and reds color the costumes, props and sets. All these hues seem as if they’d be sharper and more vibrant if it weren’t for the fuchsia glow filling the gallery and filtering the projection beams. The same light dulls the clash of rust and hot pink in the geometric pattern of the shag carpet, littered with dead oranges, connecting the open room of four drywall slabs that catch the projections. If an interior decorator uses warm tones to create intimacy in an airy space and cool tones to expand a tight one, the palette of Easternsports reverses these effects—its compromised heats evaporate in a coolly receding haze. 

The colors of Easternsports function as formal properties as they always do in the work of Da Corte, who is known more for sculpture than video. Like so many sculptors now, he aggregates readymades, but unlike most, who thread their jumble with an inscrutable network of references, he delights in the abstraction of detail. The rhyming parts of a sculpture’s pieces cohere in a singular impression, as can be seen in the sets of Easternsports, multiplied across the channels and put in motion. Da Corte frequently collaborates but he isn’t promiscuous with his vision. He swallows other artists in it, as if they were readymades too. So it is with Musson, who wrote the subtitles. His contribution, like most of his work, is a joke about the art world. The effect of his text is to mimic highbrow video art, a touch of self-aware humor to relieve an ambitious project of its own seriousness. It works, but the more substantial contribution to Easternsports is Dev Hynes’s soundtrack, lush with vibraphones, inflected with the obsessive insistence of Philip Glass or John Adams, as invasively immersive as the pink light.

Neither subtitles nor soundtrack align with the video’s parallel processions of slo-mo tableaux. Here’s a description of one: a man uses peanut butter as mortar to build a brick wall that’s used as a puppet theater during his smoke breaks. Da Corte’s scenes blend menial tasks and artistic activity in a playbor—both play and labor but neither—an aestheticized analogue to, say, scanning Buzzfeed at the office, where the operation of mouse and keyboard do work for a paying employer and Buzzfeed’s data farmers alike as the body is entertained and bored. Easternsports, perhaps more than his earlier works, presents Da Corte’s sculptural method as a beautiful echo of urban and online vistas where content’s abundance has less to do with communication than with form.

Postscript: A month after Easternsports opened, the Gap released a YouTube ad—a Hynes music video directed by Da Corte. Short, with singing and vivid color, it’s easier to consume than the art, yet anyone who saw Easternsports would recognize it in the video’s reds and purples, striped to offset each other’s power, and the use of a mop as both tool and prop to put chore in choreography. It speaks to the scalability of vision of an artist who can also function as a platform.