My Best Thing (2011), Frances Stark’s first feature-length animation, marks a turning point in her work. Using transcripts of an on-line relationship between Stark and two random strangers, the video unfolds to build an intimate portrait of the artist and her creative process. It continues Stark’s ongoing concerns with expectation and gender infused with notions of doubt, anxiety and musings on the general state of things. While arguably best known for her works on paper, where such issues are seen through the lens of writing, drawing and collage, her videos and performance pieces likewise comprise a forceful component in her overall artistic proposition.
In My Best Thing two naked online avatars are pictured, a man and a woman, playmobil-like figures wearing discrete fig leaves for modesty. The video traces the development of their relationship beginning as a series of discussions revolving around standard chat-room flirtatiousness. These encounters then give way to talk about film, art and subjectivity, touching on ideas surrounding history, politics and the very act of art-making itself. As the work progresses between two people initially unfamiliar to each other, the sexually oriented chat evolves into talk of them becoming potential collaborators. However, at this point of heightened familiarity their relationship comes to an abrupt halt and conversation with a second person ensues. The artist’s exchange with each of her on-line counterparts is poignant and often comic, enhanced by the animation itself where Stark used Xtranormal, freely available 3D movie-making software, to render herself and her opposite number as cartoons, speaking in computer-generated accents transferred from actual dialogue.
This is a compelling work that humorously and touchingly reflects on our changing world; a place where relationships mediated by technology challenge the usual understanding of how we interact with each other and allows new forms of behaviour to emerge. Stark continues to remind us of the complexity inherent in everyday encounters. Ideas of performance and role-playing, the anonymity versus intimacy implicit within the artist’s animation, are examined and brought into the wider philosophical discourse of subjectivity where strangers can so easily transform into confidantes.
To accompany the exhibition a publication with a major new text by Mark Godfrey, Curator, Tate Modern, London, was produced by the Contemporary Art Gallery in collaboration with the Walter Phillips Gallery, The Banff Centre, Alberta Canada and Walther König Publishing, Cologne, Germany.
On Sunday April 1st at the CAG, Tate Modern curator Mark Godfrey gave an engaging talk on Frances Stark’s practice in relation to her work My Best Thing to over 100 visitors. Frances Stark’s My Best Thing is a feature length animation film currently on view until Sunday April 15. Here are some images of the event taken by CAG volunteer Jamie Dolinko.MORE