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Gallery Guide

Kevin Atherton

United Kingdom, , 1999
17 minutes, 45 seconds, Colour, Stereo, 4:3
Original format: HD video
Available formats: HD Video / HD Digital file

Excerpt of a review of ‘Gallery Guide’ – the performance – at The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in 1997 by Carole Burbank in ‘Techno Narcissism’/Performing Arts Review/Chicago Reader:Only one of the performers in a show-and-tell evening at the MCA did more than demonstrate the relic of the hours spent in front of a computer screen and in the electronics shed. That was Kevin Atherton, a UK performer and scholar who presented a brilliantly parodic Gallery Guide. Wearing a headset and the bland uniform of a museum tour guide, Atherton led us through a computer-generated exhibit as inventive as it was satirical. The museum, a new building, was appropriately impossible in its scope, as Atherton playfully acknowledged the imaginative space of virtual worlds. The fantasy exhibitors had free rein in their show, “Four Rooms and a Toilet,” even to the point of cutting windows in partitions, exposing the building’s masonry, and breaking down the wall between the sex-segregated toilets. The guide justified each of the artists’ disruptive requests in high-art terminology as we “moved” through the rooms. The guide celebrated the toilets’ evenly spread grout as “a kind of minimalism” and described one impossible exhibition as “immersive nature” while his rigid cybershadow moved across the cyberprojection of a cyberslide.The flattened, detailed images through which we “moved” during the tour combined perfectly with Atherton’s inflated rhetoric, which celebrated the juxtaposition of the real and the artificial within an entirely artificial 3-D projection. The tone of the piece and Atherton’s skill at creating something out of nothing were succinctly captured in his smug description of an empty room: “The work is far stronger for having nothing in it.” Atherton skillfully combined technology with his deadpan docent’s patter, using technology to critique techno art and the art worlds that make tech for tech’s sake into a fetish.

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