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January 21, 2010 - Image 9

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The Michigan Daily, 2010-01-21

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UThe Michigan Daily ( michigandailycom IThursday, January 21, 2010
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weekend
essentials
Jan. 21 to Jan. 24
LECTU RE
Part of the Department
of Comparative Litera-
ture's "Year of Transla-
tion" series is Professor
of English Literature
and Judaic Studies
Anita Norich's upcom-
ing lecture "Yiddish:
Isaac Bashevis Singer
and the Yiddish Dif-
ference, or: Why Yentl
Sings." She compares
the English translations
of Singer's stories to
their Yiddish origins,
focusing on how Yid-
dish presents the tales
in a bold manner. The
lecture is at 12 p.m.
tomorrow, at 202 South
Thayer Street. Free.

0

"DIGITAL ARTIST CORY
ARCANGEL TURNS

I

1
.41
0
S

VIDEO GAMES ANDO"
CATS ON PIANOS
* 0 INTO ART

0
SBY WHITNEY POW A* DAILY ARTS WRITER

READING
This Friday, another
installment of the
Marks Webster Read-
ing Series will occur
in UMMA's Helmut
Stern Auditorium. Two
University of Michigan
MFA students, Hanna
Pylvainen and Jes-
sica Young, will read
their original fiction
and poetry. It's a great
chance to hear emerg-
ing authors in a cozy,
welcoming setting.
And best of all, it's
free, starting at 7 p.m.

PH OTOS BY MAX C
Digital artist Cory Arcangel got his Bachelor ot Music trom Oberlino Cooseroator

A 'rcangel's exhibit "Corp 'Arcangel: Creative Pursoits" wll se ar toe UMMA01 Proje
through April 11. BOTTOM Arcangel destroys a cage with a sword as part ot anu
musical pertormance with the Digital Mosic Ensemble.

The "Guitar Hero" clone sit-
COLLINSs/Dail *@ Michigan Museum of Art
yin Ohio. I Project Gallery doesn't play
"Through the Fire and Flames"
or "Sweet Child 0' Mine" or any-
thing even moderately close to
rock or heavy metal.
In the gray-carpeted, sterile
museum space, there is only one
song available to play on the con-
sole. The player is given just two
notes, which are strummed once
and then held over the span of sev-
eral minutes. The buttons' sound-
trails float ethereally down the
screen. A rugged, distorted elec-
tric guitar twang resonates in the
exhihit space.
The noise becomes increasingly
mocking as the player sits, fin-
gers unmoving on the fret hoard.
The game, "Frets on Fire," racks
up points over-enthusiastically:
2,000 then 3,000 and climbing.
In this game, any player with fin-
gers and a lick of patience will he
guaranteed to end the song with
thousands of points and the title
of Rock God.
This song, as produced on
U"Frets on Fire," is a work titled
Composition #7 by Cory Arcangel,
ect Gallery whose exhibit, "Cory Arcangel:
unscri pted Creative Pursuits," is on display
at the UMMA Project Gallery
through April 11L
Arcangel himself is an artist at
nMy the forefront of the contemporary
digital and media-based art scene,
producing works that use and
examine mediums both cultur-
ally familiar and unfamiliar: Pho-
toshop, Guitar Hero-type games,
the Sony PlayStation, viral videos,
Maxell cassette tapes and kinetic
sculpture a la '90s store displays.
His works have been lauded by, as
well as displayed in, institutions
like The Guggenheim Museum,
the Museum of Modern Art and
the Whitney Museum of Ameri-
can Art in New York City.
Like Composition #7, the rest of
Arcangel's body of work currently
on display at UMMA analyzes the
expanses between concepts com-
monly seen as disparate - the
gray area between high and low
culture, the virtuosic and the ama-
teur, the popular and the obscure.
to these in-between spaces,
Arcangel finds a way of twist-
ing and playing with conceptions
of what art is and how it breaks
down. What kind of
Oart "belongs" in a
museum and what
kind would you find
in a working-class
living room?
Does "Guitar
Hero" belong
in an art gal-
lery? Does

Philip Glass belong in the living
room? Are the two groups mutu-
ally exclusive?
"(The exhibit) is more of afocus
on how expression happens in a
particular medium ... so all the
works you see are pivoted off of
traditional ways that these things
are traditionally used," Arcangel
said. "I'll look at the ways people
are using things and then look at
the medium and then try to find a
way in or out of it."
While it's assumed that "Gui-
tar Hero" is an outlet reserved for
popular guitar music, Arcangel's
Composition #7 undermines this
concept - Arcangel's two-note
song on 'Frets on Fire" is not a
haphazard creation, but an actual
musical piece titled "Composi-
tion 1960 #7," which was created
by renowned composer La Monte
Young in the 1960s.
The work itself is composed of
only a B and F# notes, together
creating a perfect fifth. in perfor-
mance, these notes were, accord-
ing to Young's instructions for
the piece, to be "held for a long
time."
Using the lens of something
as approachable and culturally
omnipresent as "Guitar Hero,"
Arcangel plays with the audi-
ence's field of interest by mix-
ing the familiar with culturally
obscure concept art.
"The pieces present a mix of
high and low fashion," said Jacob
Proctor, associate curator of mod-
ern and ontemporary art at the
UMMA, who also curated Arcan-
gel's exhibit.
"That kind of mash-up goes
back to some of the first steps I've
ever seen in (Arcangel's) Beach
Boys vs. Geto Boys mash-up,"
Proctor said, referring to a 2004
piece in which Arcangel mixed
two culturally separate songs.
In that piece, the Beach Boys'
sunny rock was not positioned to
rile up the aggressive rap of the
GetoeBoys. Instead, thertwo groups
were integrated with one another
into a single track, displaying con-
sistencies beyond the second word
in both of the groups' names.
These mash-ups created by
Arcangel also include his perfor-
mance of "Last Night I Had the
Strangest Dream" (which can be
found on YouTube), a song writ-
ten by anti-war protester Ed
McCurdy in i950 and covered by
artists including Simon and Gar-
funkel and Joan Baez.
In Arcangel's recording, he
accompanies repetitive acoustic
guitar strums with his own auto-
tuned vocals, presenting a strange
intermingling of sincere lines
like "I dreamed the world had
all agreed / to put an end to war"

with the superficially polished
club sound of the past decade.
The work brings together two
genres that would seem to butt
heads - if not completely contra-
dict each other - in a way that's
not only coherent but oddly pal-
pable in the piece as well.
* FROM YOUTUBE *
r TO THE GALLERY*
Arcangel's focus on music-ori-
ented pieces stems from his Bach-
elor of Music degree from Oberlin
Conservatory in Ohio. He uses his
experience with music to explore
different ways in which cultures
can be combined.
"Art was learning about music.
And when I started to make art,
I realized I just made the art-
work based off of things I made in
music," Arcangel said. "Because
modern music - it's conceptual
art."
Also on display in the Project
Gallery is Arcangel's work, titled
Drei Klavierstuke, Op. it, which
was made by editing and splic-
ing various home videos of cats
playing pianos. He put the video
together so that each of the notes
hit by a cat in the final video is
in exact alignment with a note
played in Drei Klavierstuke, Op. 11,
a 20th-century musical piece by
composer Arnold Schoenberg.
Schoenberg's composition
eschews traditional Western har-
monies in favor of atonality, creat-
ing a piece that sounds erratic and
tuneless in comparisoncto contem-
porary pop music.
"Atonal music sounds like cats
walking on pianos. It's an elabo-
rate punch line, the whole piece,"
Arcangel said.
Schoenberg's entire piece does
sound like the random plunkings
of paws on piano keys. However,
when played alongside Arcangel's
cat remix, the exactness of Arcan-
gel's viral video recapitulation of
the piece is strikingly precise and
formulated.
"I. knew people loved cats
enough that I could do what is
considered one of the most diffi-
cult pieces in music ever," Arcan-
gel said. "And I knew the cats were
powerful enough -3I knew people
love cats enough - to provide (the
video) with a real mechanism for
its own dispersion into culture."
Upon the initial release of
Arcangel's Drei Klavierstuke, Op.
11 on the Internet, the entirety
of the composition, contained in
three videos, was linked by a wide
range of interest websites, from
novelty blogs to museum websites
to cat and animal lovers' sites,
including CuteOverload.com. The
See ARCANGEL, Page 3B
DESIGN BY: MO STYCH

FILM
Start gearing up for the
2010 World Cup with
the documentary film
"The Game of Their
Lives," playing Satur-
day at 2 p.m. at the
Michigan Theater. It's
the classic underdog
sports saga, blend-
ing archive footage
with interviews of the
surviving members of
the North Korean soc-
cer team that shocked
the world by reaching
the quarterfinals of
the 1966 World Cup.
CONCERT
"Past that county-
line frontier where
knowledge and affec-
tion blur into nothing"
(eh?), Metro Detroit-
based five-piece
Frontier Ruckus will
bring its folksy mus-
ings to the Blind Pig
this Saturday, accom-
panied by fellow Ann
Arborites Light In
August. With tickets
starting at $8, it's well
worth the price to
hear Matthew Milia
wax eloquent about
lands way up 1-75.
Doors at 9:30 p.m.

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