May 8 2014
In their ambitious work “BOY’DegaEdited4Syndication,” DUOX (a collaboration between artists Malcolm Lomax and Daniel Wickerham) present a massive, labyrinthine online work that emulates popular fan fiction. Indexed into eight main parts—Characters, Fan, Stage Parents, Downloads, Banners, Posters, Trailers, and Khroma Klub—the work creates a sprawling universe that fuses the tropes of TV crime drama, such as the visual foregrounding of tools, forensics, graphs, and charts, into a depiction of a cast of Baltimore residents. Here, the dark moodiness of Twin Peaks is meshed with the dense interpersonal connections and urban grittiness of The Wire into an online experience that unfolds across hundreds of interconnected, simultaneously active screens, instead of a single channel. In total, the work features twenty original characters, whose stories unfold across four hundred pages, supplemented by 120 original videos, and a specially designed graphic and special effects vernacular, whereby, for instance, a dozen original cursors (a bloodied banana fused with a cleaning spray and a bird strapped with a beeper replace the typical pointer) constitute a kind of visual slang.
Fan fiction, a genre that has exploded online, is distinguished by its rigorous and elaborate portrayals of celebrities, as well as its collective authorship and lack of official authorization. BE4S shares many of these formal aspects: Its world is huge and elaborate, and its collaborative creation, centered on adulatory character portraits, channels a fan position. DUOX applies the same zealotry of the fan to the representations of local, non-celebrities in Baltimore, cast both from open calls and from their intimate social circle. One of the stars, for example, is Kentrell Searles, who works at Forever 21 and for whom “the Discovery Channel, TLC, Spongebob Squarepants, and Project Runway” are his “favorite television interests.” Characters are also presented within the web of their social milieu; in his biography section, Searles is linked with Genesis Jones, his main confidante and another character in the BE4S world.
BE4S, co-presented by Artists Space in conjunction with Frieze, New York confronts viewers early in the experience of the work with the question: “Why is the labor of an artist homage and the labor of the fan fiction?” As viewers delve deeper into the work, the boundary between “work” and “fan fiction” become blurred, as the artists’ zealous and sincere appreciation of fan fiction becomes evident. The open, multidirectional, and densely layered world they have created absorbs the genre, at the same time as it pays it homage.1
Established in 2012 and co-organized by the New Museum and Rhizome, First Look is a digital art commissioning and exhibition program representing the breadth of art online—from interactive documentary, to custom-built participatory applications, to moving image-based works, and art for mobile VR. Encompassing a substantial array of work that continues to expand, First Look explores the formal, social, and aesthetic possibilities of emerging technologies on the web.