Ryan Trecartin Interview: The Safe Space of Movies

Step inside groundbreaking video artist Ryan Trecartin’s surreal universe, which has been described as a place where “horror movies meet reality TV.” In this comprehensive video, the leading figure of a new generation describes his movies as a “safe space,” where you can explore dubious ideas or characters: “It doesn’t have to be a statement, it can be a landscape of opportunities, of thought and invention rather than answers.”

Trecartin’s first movie project was in a small farm town, where he filmed a weird ritual, where college students would torment each other in various ways. This was in 1999 and people’s relationship to the camera was quite different from now, where social media and the ability to stream has added new layers to it: “When people got comfortable with it they just started narrating what they were doing. There wasn’t this sort of meta-savvy relationship to it yet.” Looking at this old footage, Trecartin is stricken by how much our relationship to the camera has evolved, particularly rhetorically: “People always think that the work is about the internet and social media, but I think it’s more about how our behaviour has changed, and our language skills, and what our tools are, and our understanding of ourselves and our bodies and what the potential inventive space of that can be in relationship to our humanity as we grow these extensions of ourselves.”

When Trecartin flipped the LED screen of the camera – in a time where YouTube had not yet set off – people reacted to the way the actors were constantly looking into the camera, doing things that are natural now, where people are aware of “body language as a collaborator of the spoken word”. The artist wanted to explore the different behavioural modes that were emerging and to make a movie where the group dynamics are more important than the individuals. Moreover, he wants people to read his movies like poems and use their own understanding of the world as a personal filter to interface with them: “It’s about the language, and the humanity and the emotions and the exchanges, the interactions and the moments, and you have to read those.”

Ryan Trecartin (b. 1981) is an American video artist. He has had solo shows at several institutions, including the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles, Kunsthalle Wien in Vienna, The Power Plant in Toronto, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in Paris, MoMA PS1 in New York and Astrup Fearnley Museet in Oslo. In 2017 he was part of the exhibition ‘Being There’ at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in Denmark with the installation ‘Lake Anticipation’ made in collaboration with his creative partner since 2001, Lizzie Fitch. He has also participated in prestigious exhibitions such as the Berlin Biennale 2016, the Venice Biennale 2013 and the Whitney Biennial 2005 where he was the youngest artist to be included. Trecartin is the recipient of several prizes such as the Jack Wolgin International Competition in the Fine Arts and a Heritage Pew Fellowship in the Arts. Trecartin currently lives and works in Athens, Ohio.

Ryan Trecartin was interviewed by Kasper Bech Dyg at Astrup Fearnley Museet in Oslo, Norway in February 2018 in connection with the exhibition Lizzie Fitch/Ryan Trecartin.

Camera: Rasmus Quistgaard
Produced and edited by: Kasper Bech Dyg
Cover photo: From ‘Comma Boat’ (2013) by Ryan Trecartin
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2018

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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