Jan Wandrag and Adam Baran have adapted the concept of YouTube reaction videos to carry the refined aesthetic of a classic Warhol film, and in doing so, have created art both contemporary and reverent. A preview of their yet-untitled video project will show as part of Instant, the first installation in the Fearless project, this Thursday, June 17, at New York’s Robert Goff Gallery.
“The people in our videos are watching something via webcam and we’re filming their reactions,” says Baran, who remained mum as to the exact contents of the video they show their subjects. “We’re not sure how much we want to tell because we don’t want people to have preconceived notions about what they’re going to watch. They’re watching something that’s sexual, but not porn, and we’re observing their reaction.”
In addition to writing and directing films and TV, Baran co-curates the acclaimed Queer/Art/Film series at the IFC Center in New York and is a contributing editor of Butt magazine and the editor for the Butt Blog. “We’re previewing our project at Instant because our films relate really strongly to the theme of the show,” says Baran of the upcoming exhibition of 80 Polaroids of men at the moment of orgasm, including works by Stuart Sandford, David Buisán, and John Arsenault. “It’s looking at sexuality and how you react and take in information.”
“My theory with video art is you walk into a gallery and it takes five to ten seconds to choose if you want to watch it and be captivated or look at something else,” says Wandrag, a South African artist/photographer/designer, whose short film David+Jonathan has been included in festivals internationally and who has exhibitions coming up this summer in Berlin and London. But with this film project, the viewer won’t be able to move along so easily. “The experience will be like you’re being watched as the viewer in the gallery by the guy in the video. So there’s a very specific purpose with this installation. Once the project is done, it will have an entirely different feel to it. We want to have 40 different videos of guys and show them all together at once.” The official unveiling is slated for fall 2010 at a yet-undisclosed space.
Baran and Wandrag were introduced by curator and Straight to Hell magazine editor Billy Miller, who, according to the pair is “a great connector of artists.” And the collaboration has been a natural. “It flowed very easily,” says Baran. “Though there was some very careful consideration about the aesthetic and the way we wanted to do it.”
Rather than letting vox populi reign supreme, plugged-in artists like Baran and Wandrag take a cultural phenomenon and artfully frame it. With this project, they’ve embraced forms of social media and expertly curated the results to create a piece of work that is relevant to the times, but not accidental or careless like so much of that clogs our bandwidth.