In Their Words

Ryan Trecartin on the Past and the Future in 10 Quotes

Ryan Trecartin on the Past and the Future in 10 Quotes
The artist Ryan Trecartin (center) in a still from Re’Search Wait’S (2009)

Given his spotlight-stealing video piece Re’Search Wait’S at the New Museum’s 2009 inaugural “Younger Than JesusTriennial and his widespread critical acceptance as one of the most important artists of his generation, Ryan Trecartin seems to be a prudent choice for co-curating this year’s Triennial “Surround Audience” alongside the Museum’s in-house curator Lauren Cornell. His famed, frenetic video art pieces (he prefers to call them “movies”) are equal parts vapid and vicious, taking the affected language of YouTube vlogs and reality TV to bizarre new places as he feels out the edges of postmodern (or is it Post-Internet?) storytelling.

A true believer in the potential of digital technologies to radically impact our understanding of narrative, Trecartin makes his forward-thinking mindset plain in the exhibition’s catalogue, which features everything from meditation exercises to virtual jungles to illustrate the contemporary “state of the art.” But for a rangier primer on some of the thinking that drives Trecartin's work and curation, here are a few choice quotes from recent years illustrating the artist's understanding of time in our supposedly atemporal era: 


"I've always been very unnostalgic about history, which is just as creative and malleable as the future. I don't think people need to be hung up on accuracy. A larger objective history is just not important. I think we're moving into a world where, as everything gets captured and recorded, we're gaining a new sense of time. Someday we'll be able to time travel through information. The focus will then shift to intention and feelings." (Art in America)

"Watching my old footage now is so strange; people had a very different relationship to the camera. They didn't want to be filmed. Then they either forgot the camera was there, which doesn't happen now, or they narrated what they were doing. You can see how people's relationship to the camera used to be really primitive." (Art in America)

"Technology flows with the momentum of culture. Our generation was ready for something like YouTube 'cause we already had it in our logic and in 2005 when it came out—I think it totally changed how people think about the ways in which people act in my movies, like new technologies create different qualities in understanding and presenting ourselves performatively." (Mike Hoolboom)


"You can't know the moment you're in. But interesting things occur when people are trying to define something before it's actually happened." (Fast Company Design)

"I think we’re living in a time when you can use more than just words and how they’re strung together to express an idea. Because of the way people read, share, and merge information now, the way something is contained and framed is just as valuable as the content inside." (Frieze)

"The future and the past can be equally malleable; I don’t think they go in opposite directions. Memory is more an act of memorizing than recalling: you’re creatively constructing something that doesn’t really exist behind you, it exists in the same place the future exists. In my videos the characters try to treat that idea as fact." (Frieze)


"I think the future of movies is where the initial movie will just be an area of data, and people will participate in articulating all of the potential lineages and narratives and plots by creating structures with rules and apps for editorializing and curating the contents. That process now happens behind the scenes with all the performers, in executing the scripts. But in the future that process won’t stop with the movie. There’s potential for movies that expand in all directions with how they’re experienced." (Vice)

"Once technology makes it possible to alter our brains, we're going to. Not everyone will. There will be more than one species of what are now humans. That split might follow class lines. Who knows? In the past couple of years I've felt like the outcome is not set." (Art in America)

"We’re getting closer and closer to being able to create at the speed of creative thought. I want there to be no such thing as reality or fantasy; I want it all to just be." (Station to Station)


"Big-box stores are sort of like the Internet. People everywhere can access the same information, the same chair. When you have 10 of them all together, there's almost a kind of cyber quality to it, like you're looking at a generic model in an animation program. This is eventually going to feel very bizarre." (Fast Company Design)


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