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Interview

Cory Arcangel

Arcangel Digital media artist and musician Cory Arcangel recently presented Depreciated, his first career retrospective, at the Netherlands Media Art Institute (aka Montevideo). One new piece featured clips of cats walking on piano keys assembled into Schoenberg’s “Drei Klavierstücke, op. 11.” Arcangel also co-founded programming ensemble BEIGE while at Oberlin Conservatory, but is probably best known for his hacked Nintendo games such as “Super Mario Clouds” and “I Shot Andy Warhol.”

The Morning News: Was the development of “Drei Klavierstücke, op. 11” as painstaking as it seems?

Cory Arcangel: Yes, it took me months of stress. I picked that piece of music because it is considered by many the first piece of atonal music, meaning music which was not written in a key. There are many reasons to reference this shift in composition by using cats. It represents a leap into modernity, it paved the way for later experiments in both art and music, and, last but not least, most people think atonal music sounds like animals walking on pianos. It is kinda a very elaborate punch line, which hopefully is so elaborate the punch line gets lost.

TMN: What’s something you’re not good at but wish you were?

CA: Being relaxed.

TMN: What inspired you to get into video art in the first place?

CA: Well, like everyone else, I understand TV because I grew up watching it, so video art is a great art form because it partly uses a language everyone understands. I was also very inspired by cable access and the idea of “art in the home.” My home city, Buffalo, NY, had a great video art cable access show that I used to love watching. It was really a big influence. Now of course the Internet has taken this idea further, and it is why I spend a lot of time on and making things for the Internet.

TMN: Why has a large part of your focus been on outdated technologies?

CA: They’re cheap! And technically everything ends up outdated eventually, so one must learn to not only appreciate the new. Also, since there is quite a cultural distance between the technology and the present, it produces quite a lot of freedom in terms of perspective.

Arcangel TMN: What’s your favorite object in your workspace?

CA: My Wayne Gretzky doll.

TMN: How important is humor to your work?

CA: It is very important. It is just part of my personality, and it seeps into my work without my knowledge. Humor is a mysterious force, one which is intuitive and physical. It’s similar to music in this way.

TMN: Do you still find time to shred on a guitar?

CA: Haha, not really, unfortunately. I have, though, started to play folk-style guitar.

TMN: What are you working on next?

CA: I have a show at the University of Michigan Art Museum in January. I have worked quite closely with the curator there, and we have picked an interesting mix of work which should be quite destabilizing and produce a really good show in the end. I am most excited because it is the premiere of my first kinetic sculpture. I have never made a traditional sculpture, let alone one that moves.

TMN: If you could change one law, what would it be?

CA: The law of averages.
biopic

TMN Editor Erik Bryan is living the dream. He grew up in Florida, but he’s from all over. He likes playing chess, making cocktails, smarting off, and not freezing to death in Brooklyn, where he currently resides. More by Erik Bryan

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