Megan Brian on Ryan Trecartin

If a plot were to be described in Ryan Trecartin’s A Family Finds Entertainment, it would be that disgruntled teenager, Skippy, comes out of the closet to his family then leaves his house and is discovered by a documentary filmmaker only to be hit and killed moments later by a car. He then rises from the dead when he hears music from a nearby house party. But, describing a linear plot doesn’t do Trecartin’s video work justice, because it is not just about plot, but about context and the world Trecartin creates.

Trecartin is an artist and filmmaker based in Los Angeles. The artist was born in Texas, grew up in Ohio and attended the Rhode Island School of Design. A Family Finds Entertainment was his thesis work.

Trecartin was born in 1981 making him a member of the only generation to have household computers and the internet introduced in early adolescence, resulting in an analog childhood and a digital coming of age. Previous generations were introduced to the widespread technological turn as adults and subsequent generations have had lives completely immersed in a digital culture. Two aspects of this culture are highly present in Trecartin’s work: collaboration (the internet is built upon the contributions of billions of people) and a vast network of influences (with the internet, any topic imaginable is at the viewer’s fingertips).

The worlds of Trecartin’s videos are made up of a strange, unwieldy gang of high energy characters. Part clowns, part drag, part grotesque creatures, part celebrities, these friends navigate within a collage of hallucinatory sensory overload. Their California accents are sped up, but still retain their characteristic upturn, making every statement a question. The effect is a cyber-chaos of frenetic posturing, remixed aphorisms, and an accumulation of feedback — akin to viewing multiple browser tabs while changing the TV channel while playing an iPod on shuffle.

When Skippy says into the mirror, “I believe that somewhere there is something worth dying for and I think it’s amazing,” the viewer wonders how a person is supposed to find this “something” out there in the over-saturated, media rich world.

Trecartin’s videos are the manic realization of postmodernism: the endless accumulation of influence available at ones fingertips. Young people live this state as a reality. Unfocused youth energy takes the Avant-Garde to a new level of hyper juxtaposition, collage, and pastiche in a conflation of the real, imagined, photoshopped, televised and digitally altered. Trecartin’s videos reflect a frantic world of mash-ups, layered with artifice, commodity and extreme behavior, all within the domain of camp and queerness. However, this manipulated and hyper-translated technological cosmos is not alienating. Infact, the appeal of Trecartin’s work lies in the ways in which it echos the reality we live in.