I sometimes get upset for pedantic reasons. One easy way to get such a reaction out of me is to use the word “Surreal” when discussing work (especially in an art school critique.) I could rant for hours on this, and I understand the colloquial usage, but I still feel that in an art context if you mean “bizarre” or even “wacky” you should just say so – Surrealism was a movement every student should be familiar with enough to understand that the content wasn’t purely about a set of aesthetic trappings.
But I’ll never be able to avoid this usage – every other weirdo photomontage and quasi-dreamscape will continue to have the term attached. If I’m lucky, someone might call themselves a neo-surrealist. You know, just so I understand that unlike the original Surrealists, who lived long ago, this working artist is not dead. It’s possible they have also gained all their knowledge by looking at a few Dali posters. Labels tend to be a little stupid anyway – and this introduction is running quite long. Like I said, I tend to get upset about this one word and can rant for some time on it.
Untitled (Collage Suit), 2006
I bring it up for a reason, though. I want to point out an artist who seems to be working in a surrealist tradition while embracing modern media, social cues, and visual conventions (something that is more in line with the original ground breaking artists of Surrealism – and far from the minds of most current “surreal” painters.) This artist is Brian Bress.
Disaster Family, 2007
I was introduced to his work recently by the We Love You So blog, which generally follows stuff to do with the wild things movie. He’s got a show currently on in LA, which I’ll link to again later. I won’t be able to make it out there, so I can only remain curious about his latest work and the longer form video. Like most of you, I’ll have to be satisfied with the intriguing stills posted on the gallery website.
Imposter (The Head)
Status Report (still)
Status Report (still)
In addition, we can satiate ourselves with his extremely odd youtube archive. Some of his videos are funny – really funny. Some are disturbing, pretty much unwatchable… but in a way that makes me feel they aren’t failures as art. Their presentation is important.
In my opinion, these videos are about youtube as much as they are about the psychotic going ons of inside the cranium of Mr. Bress.
Watching a vlog is often like watching a car wreck or similar disaster. Or perhaps it’s like people watching at a teabagger rally. It’s not often that important what the people have to say, but we can’t help being interested in characters. We desire to understand – what is behind this person? Where do they live? What is that odd object in the background.. it’s obviously part of their daily life, they didn’t think it was odd to show it or make an effort to hide it. What can we learn about the life of this person through this small window. When looking at amateur content on the internet, I’m often a lot more interested in what shows through unintentionally.
Bress creates videos on extremely detailed sets, often with a charmingly handcrafted look. Each set seems like the character inside it could have made it. They reference paintings, photographs, artistic stereotypes (French is a classy language, yes?), corporate video aesthetics, etc. It seems like the more I browse around the more small touches I notice.
And it manages to, at first look, seem totally thrown together. I suppose to an extent they might be – these videos might even just be sketches for other work, little side projects. But I think the archive together is extremely interesting. I can’t help looking at the confused comments, feeling somehow satisfied to see most of his videos with low star ratings. If many of them were rated highly, they might have failed, if that makes any sense.
I wish I had more free time to make a longer study of his work. I’ve been keeping a couple tabs open for a few days, thinking I might try to contact him for an interview, but my day jobs are keeping me from having much blogging time lately.
It’s at Cherry and Martin, 2712 S. La Cienega Boulevard, Los Angeles, until October 24th.