If you want to know how we ended up getting seduced by a woman in a plastic Viking hat chatting away through an already-encrusted bloody nose while holding a piece of Styrofoam cheese in an emergency room parking lot, or if you’re wondering why we fell in love as she cheese-guitared Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song” on a mountaintop perch—well, that part is pretty hard to explain. But if you’re curious just when shaky, hand-held, low-res video became our absolute favorite artistic medium, we can tell you precisely: about three minutes into Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn’s “Can’t Swallow it, Can’t Spit it Out,” at the 2008 Whitney Biennial.
Many of the other artworks installed in the museum also tried to reflect the ugly, over-complicated chaos of our newest late-capitalist moment—intricate, idiosyncratic maquettes of storefronts, sweatshop floors, and storage rooms—but boy did we prefer that stuff when it was outside in the dirty city, still menacing and boldly unintentional. Inside, we were more drawn to Melanie Schiff’s washed-out, murky interiors; Walead Beshty’s similarly faded, body-sized photos of office ruins; Joe Bradley’s sneaky arrangements of bright rectangles; and Matthew Brannon’s little print of a cigarette, an ashtray, and a glass, with the legend: “Finish your drink, we’re leaving.”
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