h2.Induge and Deny LMAK Projects
In his first solo Williamsburg show, Andrew Demirjian exhibited two video works at LMAK Projects that grapple with the American media’s manipulation of everyday reality: “Scenes from Next Week” (2005) and “Unpromised Water” (2004). It is a process we, as consumers, according to Demirjian, accept uncritically, even passively.
In “Scenes from Next Week,” Demirjian compiles the banal in-between moments from his perpetually upcoming week. These invisible glimpses are inevitably deleted from network television, movies, and the other products of the Hollywood dream machine. Using music, voice-over, split screens, captions, and graphic intros, the familiarity of this artsy reality TV is somehow alluring, more for its style than its content. The artist is pictured scratching lottery tickets, foraging through the fridge, commuting, ordering from a fast-food drive-thru, and washing dishes—moments that are not exactly the fodder of fantasy. The video makes you wonder how the unseen impacts those exciting moments that dominate television and cinema. After watching the video three or four times, the shock disappears. It is no longer surprising or critical. It becomes predictable, acquiring a rerun quality that assimilates it to the thing it reviles. The fact that it wades into the medium and disappears embodies the process by which our MTV attention spans have obliterated the avant-garde.
“Unpromised Water” resists that assimilation through the blatantly absurd and more directly attacks the MTV-ification of our collective media consciousness. The video is a mocking anthropological study that dissects and repackages the popular MTV television show, Real World. Using footage from its San Diego series, the reedited clips are transformed with an overlying narrative that concocts a lost tribe of “Mutados” off the coast of Southern California. In the grotesque distortion of reality, you can tell Demirjian relishes the big joke—there is no message.
Presented as a study of “human geography,” the Real World characters partake in the coyly named rituals like the “ceremony of the cock” where “the phallic object is often placed on their genitalia to appease the fertility gods” and they get blotto because “drinking dulls their pain.” These Mutados we are told are a “sea tribe, struggling to adapt to the loss of natural resources” and work to overcome their “archaic childhood rearing methods” and sometimes take part in the “evening’s trance ritual” which “stems from a weakened sense of self.” The film ends with a black screen, complete with vintage scratches and dust effects. Strong, white letters spelling “FIN” appear as if television has become as arcane as silent film.
Both videos have surveillance qualities reminiscent of documentary that evokes a notion of power in images—we become omnipotent, with more information and access than normal human experience would allow. If we invent out of the substance of our culture and from nothing else, the choice of television as the lingua franca for Demirjian seems natural; it inhabits the in-between space of all our lives, creating the boundaries of a communal culture. The fact that we accept its categorizations and narratives uncritically is mysterious. Contributing to our weakened sense of self, undermining personal perspective, it collapses the possibilities for dissent and highlights our deep desire to conform and assimilate difference. —Hrag Vartanian
Hrag Vartanian is a writer, critic, and designer. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.