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Three "work in progress" performances by artists from the 2004 Whitney Biennial debuted at the Kitchen last night. Tracy + The Plastics, a one-woman (virtual) band, consisted of Wynne Greenwood seated at a keyboard, playing and conversing with two prerecorded Wynne Greenwoods on DVD. The three are ostensibly sitting around their "band house" performing snippets of songs and having mock-lame arguments about the direction of their music. While frequently funny, Greenwood's passive aggressive slacker-chick persona wore thin after a while: I know this year's Whitney was about the "quest for the adolescent" but her self-absorbed conversation with the video mirror seemed trivial next to the mid-to-late 90s electro-femme performance work it somewhat resembled (e.g. Kristin Lucas, Monotrona). Alex Bag also inevitably came to mind.
Golan Levin's work was tech-intensive and nerdy (maybe it was the lab coat) but also fun and playful. He and his fellow performer Zachary Lieberman each used a combination of overhead and digital video projectors to make semi-abstract shadow-outlines (basically Rayograms) of their hands and other objects, with the overlap of the respective projector arrays creating dramatic color separation effects. The shadows in turn interacted with custom software to synesthetically translate shapes into sounds. A silhouette of a balled fist opening into a two-finger V caused a sequence of chiming musical notes to alter in mid-cascade; three fingers changed the sequence again, and so on. Clunky cut paper objects dropped onto the projector beds had their own unique audio signatures. Manning their opaque projectors like gamers at battle stations, the performers held a back & forth dialogue-cum-duel of changing silhouettes, which was exquisitely timed and quite charming.
Framing the other two performers was Cory Arcangel's "Pizza Party"--a demonstration of how to hack into the Dom1no's website and order pizza using only command line instructions. These green-on-black text-only options, which Arcangel accessed with a Perl script, lurk below Dom1no's (and every other business's) GUI, or graphic user interface, and consist of filling in "y" or "n" next to mushrooms, anchovies, thin crust, etc. and specifying a delivery address. As he walked the audience through the process on a large screen, Arcangel commented drily (but enthusiastically) on the essential uselessness of online commerce, and even greater uselessness of hacking into it, when a simple local phone call would suffice. And although he warned that failure was a possibility in his performance, his confident demeanor when he came back after the other acts told us that our pizzas had arrived.
UPDATE: "Pizza Party, a free text based software package for ordering pizza, or for throwing pizza parties" is available online here.
UPDATE 2: Somebody posted an article about security vulnerabilities in "Pizza Party," the software. No one seems to know if it was satire or not.