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Custom Car Commandos

Art in General
79 Walker Street, 212-219-0473
Tribeca / Downtown
January 16 - March 7, 2009
Reception: Friday, January 16, 6 - 8 PM
Web Site

Nancy Davenport, Liam Gillick, Lars Mathisen, Dexter Sinister, Alex Villar, and Angie Waller. Guest curated by Sandra Skurvida.

Public Program Lecture by Liam Gillick on March 7, at 3 PM.

As chief executives of the Big Three auto manufacturers of Detroit plead for emergency government bailout, Custom Car Commandos, an exhibition opening at Art in General on January 16, 2009, relates the auto industry and the image industry. The exhibition consists of video works by Nancy Davenport, Lars Mathisen, Alex Villar, and Angie Waller, as well as a lecture by Liam Gillick and a publication in collaboration with Dexter Sinister.

The artists included in Custom Car Commandos utilize the auto body as a vehicle for socioeconomic, political, environmental, and psychological phenomena brought about by the current crisis. Kenneth Anger’s short film Kustom Kar Kommandos of 1965 provides an historical touchstone for the current exhibition, invoking relationships between cars, power, dominance, and desire.

Nancy Davenport engineers photo-video hybrids, cross-referencing artifacts and icons from the history of cinema in her videos Final Inspection and Conversation, two parts of her ongoing Workers project. In Final Inspection, Davenport filmed the assembly line at Jaguar’s Halewood factory in England, which was owned by the Ford Motor Company until its recent sale to the Indian conglomerate Tata. As workers inspect new cars, touching up their shiny surfaces, the viewer’s attention may shift from the car to image-making. In Conversation, Davenport presents a “human interest” story in documentary mode—a video recording of an “exit interview” between the company’s public relations representative and factory workers who have just lost their jobs.

Misalignment between object and function, fact and fiction, is at the very core of Alex Villar’s practice. Crash Course is a series of attacks on a Hummer-whose design connotes war and luxury-that unfold against cityscapes of Beijing, Copenhagen, and New York. Modernist architectural backdrops emphasize the uniformity of these diverse locales, strung together by a drill of recurring attacks. The panning movement of the video is created by using still photos shot at eight frames per second, projected onto two intersecting screens. Merging shapes, desaturated and solarized images, and the dialectics of collisions shatter a unilateral point of view.

Angie Waller counters Villar’s cinematic abstraction with a documentary project, Armored Cars: Protect Yourself from Ballistic Attacks. Composed of a video and a photo collage, the work is a compilation of online marketing materials obtained from manufacturers of customized armored cars. In addition to undercover ballistic tests, the video includes a melee of industry interviews, auto shows, and marketing propaganda in a style that presents a corporate trade video as an action thriller. The video is punctuated with humorous vignettes of evasive industry reps obsessed with corporate secrecy, in stark contrast to the copious online materials showcasing vehicular violence.

In a video installation created specifically for this exhibition, Park Here, Lars Mathisen explores the topology of the unseen. His “non-action film” is shot in familiar places at moments when these sites are devoid of action-in a parking garage, on a street, or in artist’s studio-when nothing seems to happen. The artist conveys estrangement by dividing viewpoints, blurring vision, and confusing narrative sequences. The images are projected onto a scale model of a house; the result is a form of autophobia—as in “fear of self” rather than a fear of automobiles.

Liam Gillick’s body of work-comprised of texts, social interactions, as well as art and design objects-conveys his experience of the post-war production mode. In the lecture, Gillick will present his investigations into the notion of an experimental factory: a model for the research mode, but one that lacks actual experiments—the factory that exists but does not produce. His presentation negotiates cultural production methods and commodity values, while charting possibilities for future practices.

“The first rule is always production, never documentation. The second rule is there are no rules.” This contradiction in terms is the premise for the publication to be produced in collaboration with Dexter Sinister, the compound name of David Reinfurt and Stuart Bailey. Their practice collapses distinctions of editing, design, production, and distribution into an efficient assembly-line activity, which is reinvented with every project in response to its specific goals and conditions. The publication will be released by the close of the exhibition.
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