Last Saturday, April 1st, I visited Alfred University’s Cohen Gallery to see A Day’s Work, an exhibition created by Rebekah Modrak and Nick Tobier. Both videographers displayed two separate productions in which authenticity and social expectations are challenged.
In Re Made / Best Made, Modrak satirizes a New York City-based company, Best Made Company. This business sells painted axes, as well as a quantity of other outdoor consumer products under a rugged identity marketed toward working-class men. Through claims of authenticity, Best Made Company has worked to strengthen their manly narrative.
“Re Made Company”, a fictional business duplicating Best Made Company’s branding efforts is, like the video above, parody. Unlike Best Made Company, however, Re Made Company is in the line of selling plungers, not axes. Accompanying this, Modrak has also produced a website and a Facebook page, taking her commentary to an entirely new level.
Regarding Modrak’s strong aesthetic execution, replication of Best Made Company’s commercial efforts is practically infallible. Concerning the dialogue, background environments and even motion graphics, we see a great degree of thought went into resembling the initial set – something I believe is very effective in any parody.
Evidently holding some root in Dadaism, this production draws potent parallels with Marcel Duchamp’s readymade sculpture entitled Fountain. In both cases, our artists are taking bathroom appliances, like plungers or urinals, and exalting them for parody. Works along these lines question the authenticity of various art styles and consumer products.
In Marvelous Guests, Tobier explores the dynamic between the host and the guest. Together, the two can make something worth witnessing – like cheese and a pizza, like a drumstick and a drum. Tobier takes certain professions and isolates them within an unfamiliar environment. For example, in an edition conducted five years ago, Tobier implements a pair of stretching ballerinas in a laundromat. Sampling them from their ballroom, these dancers hold little to no relevance with their locations – with this, viewers can see the raw, naked essence associated with these out-of-the-ordinary happenings to a greater degree.
Marvelous Guests challenges the social expectations surrounding an environment and purposes itself in creating an appealing combination between the guest and the host. Weightlifting in libraries, practicing tai chi in coffee shops, playing percussion at gas stations; each of these unusual combos allow for new, interesting relationships to develop and unfold.
Neo-Dadaism concepts of experimentation hold much prevalence with each edition of the series. Reactions from pedestrian passer-bys play a crucial role in capturing the art form; a large part of the craft relies on the role of chance – a playing off of happenstance – in observing the external reactions from others. Much like John Cage and his 4’33”, the viewers’ response is just as important to the production as is the action.
Ultimately, both Modrak and Tobier challenged notions of authenticity and normalities outlining social framework. They act as pioneers, continuing to push the avant-garde into new and exciting places. And interestingly enough, these artists worked to think outside the box, using methods of duplication and hidden cameras to convey a specific message and/or idea. All in a day’s work.