Show Me

June 1, 2009 - June 20, 2009

Johansson Projects, Oakland, CA

Taking place in the second gallery at Johansson Projects is a project by the collaborative duo Jennifer and Kevin McCoy. They are known for constructing physical and conceptual models paired with found, live or scripted video to illustrate the arbitrary nature of systems of categorization, with an eye to how this dictates our sense of understanding, memory and knowledge. In Artists Talks, the McCoy's latest work, they enlisted unknown actors with no art-making or art history background to present and discuss an artwork that was supposedly made by him or herself. The three-minute video performances range from comic to insightful, but almost never adhere to the standardized language of a "real" artist's talk. Artists Talks presents another type of closed-circuit system, bounded by limitations of categorization and knowledge that makes viewers question the arbitrary standard to which they hold any given genre and points out the insufficiency of language to describe visual art, with or without an agreed-upon vocabulary. The McCoys succeed in further circumnavigating our reliance on these systems of understanding and underscoring the futility of this dependence.

Works Shown

Artists Talks

2008, installation

Actors unfamiliar with the work and language of contemporary art are asked to spontaneously present the works of well known artists as their own. The improvised talks are set up as a video database where viewers can choose from the eighteen three-minute long discs. While dexterous in their presentational abilities, the actors deliver information that is suspect, relying on popular pre- and mis-conceptions of art and face value descriptors of the images presented. Although the tone of the performances ranges from comic to sincere to insightful, this work reveals the "artists talk" to be a convention bound genre, but also illuminates the relativity and occasional pretension of accepted canon. The actors' struggle reminds us of the limitation of any attempt to explain visual art with language.