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Giving ones and zeros a human feeling


Bowling Credit: (Eliot Wyman. Courtesy of Barbican Art Gallery, London)

Cory Arcangel, using relics from our recent technological past, has managed to tap into an aesthetic that is very much "now." The 32-year-old artist employs hacked video games, obsolete technology or mis-employed Photoshop to create multi-media works that embrace and celebrate our digital-age coexistence with technology.

Entering the Whitney's new exhibition "Cory Arcangel: Pro Tools" feels like walking into a possessed arcade. Two works dominate the first gallery: "Research in Motion (Kinetic Sculpture #6)" - made up of a group of stacked tables whirling frantically - and"Various Self Playing Bowling Games (aka Beat the Champ)," a series of self-playing video games from different eras complete with blaring eight-bit theme music. It's a little disorienting at first, but it sets the tone for the weird, bit-driven fun that follows.]

An exhibit highlight, "Paganini Caprice No. 5," splices together hundreds of YouTube clips of people playing heavy-metal guitar to re-create note by note the classical violin piece of the video's title. It's a triad of virtuosity - in regards to composition (Paganini), performance (YouTube guitarists) and editing (Arcangel). The result is impressive, but also a little ridiculous: It looks and sounds jerky and disjointed and invites the questions "How long did this take?" and "Why was this done?"

In fact, Arcangel's theme seems to be "Isn't technology great? Look at all these silly things we can do!" But there's a sense of joy to his execution. Rather than condemning our mix-and-match digital culture, Arcangel is celebrating the users that turn those zeros and ones into messy human creations.

If you go: "Cory Arcangel: Pro Tools" is at the Whitney Museum of American Art, through Sept. 11.

Also opening: "Designing the Whitney of the Future," a look at the plans for the Whitney's downtown building.

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