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How to Succeed in Art Criticism Without Really Trying : Joseph Nechvatal’s nOise anusmOs

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"Chelsea Walk: How to Succeed in Art Criticism Without Really Trying"
By John Perreault
May 8, 2012


Joseph Nechvatal’s nOise anusmOs, at Gallery Richard 514 W. 24, to May 21, is one of those exhibitions you won’t be able to forget.

What are viruses? Viruses live. Maybe. To biologists and the like, they are totally confusing. They don’t fit into the Three Domains or the Six Kingdoms. Where did they come from? They require host cells to replicate. We fear them. The HIV virus causes AIDS. 25 million dead! Although deadly, viruses are also metaphors. We dread computer viruses, but everyone hopes their YouTube clips go viral. The artist/writer/composer Nechvatal has even proposed that humans may be viruses, living off the earth.

Nechvatal, once associated with the now-historical Colab and ABC No Rio venues, is the virus guy and has been for quite awhile. He has figured out how to use algorithms to act as “viruses” on images and sounds, in effect programming artworks that make themselves. Always anti-postmodernist, his new exhibition is strangely alluring. What I like more than their mode of construction is the de-stabilization they cause. The end-products of his algorithms and robotic ink machines look attractive indeed. But then: Aha! They are close-ups of anuses. I think we all have them –males and females – but they are taboo.

Nechvatal, the virus guy, risks becoming the anus guy. Good for him. He posits an anus cosmos, without even quoting Artaud. Wide awake and a bit of an activist during the denial stage of the AIDS/HIV crisis, he knew what he was doing when he began using “virus” programs on his own art to produce robot-paintings. And we always liked the mysterious surfaces of his layered “drawings.”
He is a thinker too. Visit his website for such essays as Emergence of the New Paradigm: Viractuality. Chew on this:

"After a long period of temporal disjunctions following the demise of the modernist project and the excessive abuses of the post-modernist non-project; I wish to now suggest that a new clarifying paradigm has emerged based not, however, on the ideals of the raw, the pure or the reduced – but rather on the internal tic-tic-tic bomb time of the embedded and patient viral attack.
So I am suggesting here a seething project of critique within critique that re-energizes the broken gaps of temporal displacement that followed the demise of modernism and the appearance of now listless – super fragmented – irresponsible – glut of post-modern de-construction."

You can also get a taste of his "viral symphOny" on YouTube.