Magazine article Artforum International

Alex Bag and Patterson Beckwith

Magazine article Artforum International

Alex Bag and Patterson Beckwith

Article excerpt

TEAM GALLERY

Between 1994 and 1997, Alex Bag and Patterson Beckwith produced sixty-odd hours of two public-access cable-TV shows, Cash from Chaos and Unicorns & Rainbows. Their recent exhibition condensed it all to 458 minutes. The installation looked like a children's playroom crossed with a media-conglomerate viewing room mocked up by IKEA. Walls were painted glowing blue-screen blue, with a mural of test-pattern color bars at one end. Oversize red beanbags, gray-and-red hanging pod-chairs, and red shag carpet invited visitors to veg out before eight cube monitors on the floor. It looked innocuous, but there are reasons why Bag and Beckwith's programming aired at 2:30 AM, and why they were ousted from even this permissive slot. (Hence the show's two iterations. When Cash front Chaos got the boot for recycling scenes from remarkably gross porn, the slacker impresarios came back with Unicorns 6-Rainbows, continuing their low-tech sampling from bad TV plus mesmerizingly boring visits to various "attractions"--but laying off the prank calls.) On a recent afternoon, a parent who'd brought kids to the apparently friendly setup got suspicious. "Can I listen?" the mom asked a girl about four years old, whose skull was dwarfed by headphones. "Is it just music?" "No," murmured the small consumer. "It's about plastic surgery." For Alex Bag, such moments must be a triumph.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Bag and Beckwith were, the former says, "mind-melded" in the 1990s, and their project lends itself to thoughts about collaboration. Produced weekly, without any budget to speak of, the shows are remarkably consistent in their sparkly, psychotic appreciation of the waste-spaces of broadcast. Understanding Bag and Beckwith as a hinge generation--linking Dara Birnbaum, Mike Smith, Mike Kelley, and, of course, Cindy Sherman to Kalup Linzy, Ryan Trecartin, and Tamy Ben-Tor--is interesting. Technophiles might discourse on the already touchingly retro aspect of the work. ("Television . I is) like the ugly, crude, kid brother of film," Bag has said. …

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