“We’re interested in having fun and breaking down the barriers of the stuffy art world by maybe working out in the street or in a nightclub as much as a gallery. The space for our art is wherever we perform.”
Alessandro Imperato is standing outside the Indigo Sky Community Gallery with two of his cohorts—Jim Gladman and Kelley McClung—answering questions from a group of folks who have just witnessed the deep hallucinatory weirdness of their live digital video performance in a dark back room of the gallery space.
Imperato, Gladman, and McClung make up the core constituency of the Medeology Collective, a group of new media artists that includes Matthew Akers and a few others whose work is a sort of free-form commentary on mass media culture in our overpopulated social, political, and personal lives. It’s also frequently an act of outright subversion, as witnessed by the group in attendance at Indigo Sky.
“Our footage is being mixed on the spot, so it isn’t the original anymore. It’s being recontextualized,” explains Imperato. “Because it’s already out there in the culture and has certain meanings, that’s what we’re interested in investigating and playing with. It’s a collage aesthetic—mixing together different materials and changing and transforming them.”
The performance at Indigo Sky consisted of Imperato, Gladman, and McClung sitting at a table with their bank of laptops in front of a triptych video projection where they would each dial up a series of movie, television, and advertisement clips and riff off of each other’s imagery in real time. The resulting experience was a culture-jamming amalgam of sometimes creepy, sometimes thoughtful, and sometimes just plain strange video collages that are mixed and mashed against a sonic backdrop of electronic drones and beats.
The results are also often pretty hilarious, as when a news reel of Hitler was sandwiched between clips of My Little Pony hordes and a writhing belly dancer in the midst of a transfixed Medieval battalion.
“It brings up the whole issue of humor in art,” says Gladman. “Which is that humor in art is generally seen as a taboo. It means the art isn’t serious enough or it’s considered ‘low-brow.’ One of our unspoken rules is that if we haven’t laughed at something we’ve done in a performance at some point we’ve failed.”
Along with Indigo Sky Gallery’s owner and director, Jerome Meadows, the Medeology Collective helped curate the program and exhibition in the gallery space, which also included a number of other works by various new media artists. The program was done in conjunction with the PULSE Art + Technology Festival, and PULSE’s founder and Telfair’s senior curator of education, Harry DeLorme, who was also in attendance, couldn’t help but comment on the sometimes trenchant but still absurd contrasts that can arise in a Medeology Collective performance.
“They have a real knack for finding those peculiarly observed moments,” laughs DeLorme.
By their own admission, the Medeology Collective exists somewhere outside the continuum of other creatives working in the mediums of digital and video art—from club VJs to installation artists who exhibit strictly in galleries and museums. They point out that the art form of pop-culture sampling holds a lineage from Dadasim and the Fluxus movement, to the psychedelic art shows of San Francisco in the 60s, to the cut-and-paste video artists and DVJs of the present, and for their part, the Medeology Collective is trying to skirt some of these boundaries and remain on the renegade side of things.
“It’s changed a lot,” says Imperato. “It’s gone from an exclusive group of people experimenting with found or created video footage, but now that technology has become more accessible and processing power is available to anyone with a laptop, the field has exploded.”
The Medeology Collective retains their subversive roots with pride. As Gladman proudly proclaims, their work is distinctly outside the slavish material fetishes of the “commodity object.” And in this world of commercial media saturation, many might agree that’s a very good thing indeed.