Future-Framed Works

Liat Berdugo, Gabriella torres-Ferrer, Rebecca Forstater, Bahareh Khoshooee

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About the Exhibition:

In this experimental group exhibition, we have collected a range of complex moving images by four female artists tackling questions of the body, pop-culture, and the problems presented wherever we oscillate between the physical and the virtual. Each selection is loosely related to performances in online spaces. Undeniably questions surrounding the patriarchy, inclusion and accessibility, and cultural disparities are presented through a politicized lens, and that lens is sharpened by the modes with which each artist deploys a simultaneously humorous and critical response. 

Berdugo’s “Internet Aerobics” is a 20-minute video that apes the corny aesthetic of late-’80s and early-’90s aerobics videos, but is also a strangely sweet ode to the online age. Three women in hyperlink-blue leg-warmers and sweatbands perform choreographed routines to songs about the internet, like Le Tigre’s “Get Off the Internet.” It’s a joke that should overstay its welcome after about two minutes, but thanks to the artist’s dedication to detail — the ethernet cables the performers use as exercise props, the canned applause between tracks, the bland computer-lab setting — it works. Berdugo, who is based in Oakland, Calif., has performed the piece as a participatory event in recent years, leading groups of people through the motions of internet adoration via cardio. It’s tongue-in-cheek and campy, but also enthusiastic about the very thing it makes fun of — both aerobics and online culture. The lightheartedness makes it an ideal point of entry for a show of video art that doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Torres-Ferrer’s interactive piece is the exhibition’s highlight, even though you have to navigate away from Unrequited Leisure’s website to fully access it. The piece, titled “Isn’t the World Just a Great Big Pyramid Scheme?,” is what I imagine the internet would look like in a dream. Vaguely sexy but also bland and nonsensical, it’s seductive in a way that reminds me of a phrase a friend once used to describe a downbeat ambient song: “suicide beige.” In her artist’s statement, Torres-Ferrer calls the piece “a commercial web détournement,” and the interface encourages you to explore the surface of the website like a creepy internet stalker. There’s a Winamp music player that plays atonal noise, empty corporate-speak like “bypass the classic power contra-power strategy,” and intentional misspellings that bring to mind glitchy auto-translation apps. 

If Torres-Ferrer’s piece feels like a dream about the internet, Forstater’s “There’s Enough for Everybody” feels like a dream about QVC. Forstater creates a lo-fi version of deepfake technology by wearing silicone masks of cast members of The Real Housewives of New York City, then running them through a Snapchat face-swapping filter with a photo of the cast member’s face. She talks about making chicken Parm with a rubbery, unmoving facial expression and a thick Long Island accent, and it makes me never want to eat anything ever again. It’s a bizarre dive into the uncanny plasticity of reality television and social media, and I almost wish I knew more about the Real Housewives franchise, just so I could soak in the references.

“MaxMotives” is one of a series of works by Khoshooee, a New York-based artist from Tehran who went to art school in Tampa, Fla. She references that confluence of cities in her art with an interest in diaspora culture and fragmentation. Khoshooee’s contribution to Future Framed Works is the first episode in a fictitious reality show in which her virtual alter egos discuss a new baby. One alter ego has an on-camera interview that mimics the “confessional” trope of reality TV, and speaks in Farsi with subtitles running beneath her. The mundanity of her words — “If I’m being honest with you, I think this baby, um, is my baby” — is set against the extravagant aesthetics of cyberspace. It’s Big Brother filtered through New Wave futurism, at once boring and visually rich, and it’s a perfect fit for an exhibition about the uncanny and the mundane.

You can check out the show when it goes live on our website unrequitedleisure.com starting on May 1, 2020. We will also be a participating in a Virtual Art Crawl hosted by The Nashville Art Gallery Association on their YouTube Channel, May 2nd at 6pm.

About the Artists:

Liat Berdugo is an artist and writer whose work investigates embodiment, labor, and militarization in relation to capitalism, technological utopianism, and the Middle East. Her work has been exhibited and screened at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (San Francisco), MoMA PS1 (New York), Transmediale (Berlin), V2_Lab for the Unstable Media (Rotterdam), and The Wrong Biennale (online), among others. Her writing appears in Rhizome, Temporary Art Review, Real Life, Places, and The Institute for Network Cultures, among others, and her latest book, The Weaponized Camera in the Middle East, is forthcoming from Bloomsbury in 2021. She is one half of the art collective, Anxious to Make, and is the co-founder and co-curator of the Living Room Light Exchange, a monthly new media art series. Berdugo received an MFA from RISD and a BA from Brown University. She is currently an assistant professor of Art + Architecture at the University of San Francisco. Berdugo lives and works in Oakland, CA.

Gabriella Torres-Ferrer (b.1987 Arecibo, Puerto Rico) is an artist whose work considers futurability, new digital epistemologies and subverting hegemonic narratives; often questioning what it means to be a body in the world, power dynamics and means of exchange and production in a globalized networked society. Their practice engages in interdisciplinary processes within new media, installation, video, advertisement, among others. Torres-Ferrer has exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Museo del Barrio and A.I.R. feminist collective, New York; The Wrong New Digital Art Biennale online and offline in São Paulo, Mexico City, San Juan and Santo Domingo; Phillip Martin, Los Angeles; Curro, Guadalajara; Gianni Manhattan, Vienna; Embajada, San Juan. Gabriella is a former resident of the Beta Local La Práctica fellowship in San Juan and completed the BAR project visual arts practice program in Barcelona. They are a 2020-2021 recipient of the Akademie Schloss Solitude Artist-in-Residence fellowship and Guest Artist prize at CERN.

Rebecca Forstater is a New York based artist whose digital and sculptural works depict rhizomatic connections between nostalgia, celebrity, consumerism, politics and user generated content in the screen experience. Her practice is based on rearranging current and past inextricably violent interactions in digital culture as a way of imagining future possibilities. These exchanges both in real life and in her work, go from fact to fiction to reality to virtual to utopia to dystopia to aspirational to nightmarish to Amazon to Herbalife to made up bullshit as they circulate through the digital experience. Forstater received her MFA from Syracuse University and has exhibited her work internationally at Botschaft (Berlin), Monte Vista Projects (Los Angeles), and Governors Island (New York), and CLAY Keramikmuseum (Denmark). In addition to her individual art practice, Forstater is part of the art collective, Double Double Project, and is a co-founder and curator of Trophy Room Project Space.

Bahareh Khoshooee was born in Tehran, Iran, in the year of the goat, 1991. She received her MFA in Studio Art from the University of South Florida (2017) and her BA in Industrial Design from University of Tehran (2014). She has exhibited internationally and nationally with most recent shows at Rawson Projects (New York), Mojdeh Gallery (Tehran), Museum of Fine Arts Saint Petersburg (Florida), Contemporary Art Museum (Florida), The Front (New Orleans), and CAA 2017. Her work is soon to be featured in Re:Art Show (Brooklyn), Tempus Projects (Florida) and Mana Contemporary (Chicago).