Minsheng Museum Dec.19th 2011-January 25th 2012

Marc Lafia’s Eternal Sunshine transforms the virtual space of online social networks into a large scale interactive installation. This vivacious work involving video, sculptures, and audience participation brings together a number of techno-social concerns that have been central to Marc Lafia’s long career as an artist, filmmaker and information architect — in particular, his interest in how our environments are programmable, how we are all part of an elaborate program that is as real as it is virtual. In Eternal Sunshine, designed for the Minsheng, he presents the network as a condition in which we create new senses of ourselves, of history, time, desire, love and loss.

Eternal Sunshine is constructed around an imaginary swimming pool which helps to set the scene of a warm summer afternoon. Strewn around the pool are lounge areas, a ping pong table, video monitors, an open microphone, electric guitar, and other activity stations including a series of ad hoc questions listed on a blackboard that encourages audience feedback. Surveys ask audience members to list their favorite books, films, vacation spots, and emails. Free refreshments, art and dance classes, karaoke sessions and popular magazines are provided as a way to retain the audience and encourage them to customize the space to fit their own expressions, needs and tastes. While this open recreational space is fun and relaxing, it is also a laboratory, a place to inventory people’s likes and dislikes, their fears, pleasures, intimate longings and desires. In one corner of the room we see signs, ‘more happy music’, ‘more sun’ ‘evacuate’. These signals suggest that this enjoyable place is actually pre-designed, a software program beyond our control. The signs also suggest that the environment is continually being optimized and personalized. In fact museum staff will update any requests of the participants, whether it is to play their favorite songs, change the color of the lighting or add their favorite flavor refreshment, all in effort to streamline the eternal sunshine of utopia. Eternal Sunshine employs art as an event and uses networks, both private and public, to affect a cultural space that produces in the end, what we know as globalization.

The mood changes in the hallway leading to the back room of the exhibition. Here along the two walls are a series of prints of subtitles taken from Chinese, French and Japanese films which explore how subjectivities have changed over time and generations and, more importantly, how globalization constructs a post-national subjective condition. This dialog between film, history, memory, and society is further explored in Double Fantasy, Lafia’s double channel video love letter to China. In this work distinct cultures prior to globalization look at one another via cinematic montage. The juxtapositions lead to a series of productive misrecognitions, phantasms and mirroring. Actor Jia Hongsheng in Beijing believes John Lennon to be his father; Jean Luc Godard argues that Mao’s red book is the way to social change for Paris; the Beatles go to India and seek Maharishi to transform their consciousness; and John and Yoko lay in bed in Amsterdam for seven days to inspire peace. Here each culture is a promise to the other for a better world.

Further in is yet another video by Lafia, Hi How are You Guest 10497, which brings us back into a contemporary moment, where we live inside cinema, inside the network, and where one can reach out across global networks to connect to other ‘private’ spaces. The video portrays the network life of a young woman. In her solitude she remains connected — however ethereally, however precariously — to the world around her. Here we begin to sense that the world has become one global network where identity is always and already expressive, always and already enmeshed in the web of becoming. Another video expresses contemporary society’s continual search for even greater stimulation. Raindrop Ecstasy, a three channel musical video is filmed on a rainy night in New York City. Four young people find themselves quietly in search, against the obvious, for an ultimate experience. As they follow their instincts, like animals on the prey, they are drawn into a Karaoke bar, where under the colored lights they see themselves, as if in a dream, mirrored on a large screen singing The Magnetic Fields kaleidoscopic song ‘Take Ecstasy with Me.’

All of the works Eternal Sunshine critiques to the new cultural order as an ecstatic artifice. In this order, mediated by personal computer networks normative values are reproduced as consumable objects and the individual’s identity is played like a pawn. On the other side we see the community and transcendence that the global network inspires. On the other side we see how yesterday’s dystopic, brave new world looks utopic today and how concepts such as open, transparent, distributed, non-hierarchical, and participatory promise inclusion and empowerment yet have in turn exploited the individual’s desire for the sake of benefit.

Marc Lafia is a New York City based artist, filmmaker and information architect whose work explores the expansive possibilities of the photographic image. His varied online works include, This Battle of Algiers a commissioned work from The Tate Modern and The Whitney Museum of American Art, The Memex Engine, or Lara Croft Striped Bare by her Assassins Even exhibited at The Walker Art Center and Georges Pompidou, Ambient Machines which premiered at the Rotterdam Film Festival and the SFMoMA and Variable Montage exhibited at the Central Academy of Fine Art, Beijing.

In his many feature films including Exploding Oedipus, Love & Art, and Confessions of an Image as well as his numerous computational films, he probes what it is to construct an image, to forge systems of representation, to re-write our viewing benchmarks as we move from analog to digital. Many of these works have been exhibited in seminal exhibitions on Net Art and Future Cinema including Net Condition and Future Cinema at the ZKM, Germany, the ICC Tokyo, Node-L, Canary Islands Biennale for Architecture, 2007, and other international museums, art centers and festivals.

Marc has taught in the graduate schools of Stanford University, the San Francisco Art Institute, Pratt Institute of Design, and Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. He is currently teaching at Columbia University, NYC. He has also won numerous awards as an information architect, music video conceptualist.

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