Monday, July 3, 2017

Video ad Absurdum

How a collection of fifteen thousand Jerry Maguire VHS tapes reveals the ugly underbelly of the media-entertainment industry.

If you were walking down Sunset Boulevard in mid-January—right around the time America’s forty-fifth president (a man and a president fit for his time) was inaugurated—you may have come across a familiar, though half-forgotten site: the fa├žade of a video rental store. Through the window was the usual setup: movie advertisements, shelves of VHS tapes, genre signs, a gum ball machine, a couple dorky clerks chitchatting behind the counter, even a curtain with the label XXX, beyond which, you might guess, you could sneak a glimpse of videotaped smut. What was different about this video store—besides the fact that it was 2017, not 1997—was that all the tapes, all the posters, even the celebrity cardboard cut-out and the genre signs plastered high on the shelves were for the same movie: Jerry Maguire. Indeed, it was the only movie available in the entire store, and none of them were for rent. These fifteen thousand “Jerrys,” as they are affectionately known, were put on display by the video/art collective Everything is Terrible! (EIT!), which has been mashing up videos and collecting copies of Jerry Maguire video tapes for about eight years.

On opening night of the exhibit, I watched as about a thousand of LA’s video nerds and scenesters streamed past the wall-to-wall red-and-white Jerry shelves, through the XXX curtains, and into an ankle-deep pool of unspooled Jerry Maguire, wrapping their arms around a cardboard cutout of Tom Cruise talking on his mid-90s flip phone to pinch-zoom and snap Instagram/Facebook/Twitter-ready photos. What (the fuck) to make of this? The store was a meme, hypertrophied and incarnate. Jerrys stacked into pyramids along every wall. Jerry-inspired art selling for hundreds of dollars. Jerry socks. Jerry mix-tapes. A Jerry video game. A treasure chest of still shrink-wrapped Jerrys sent from an adulatory Cameron Crowe (the film’s director). And then the actual (fucking) pyramid—the actual pyramid EIT! is in talks with actual architects to build in the actual desert—a tomb and a shrine “for all the Jerrys to live in for all time,” according to Nic Maier, one of the lead members of the video art collective. Was it Scientological mission creep? A Malkovichian nightmare? A glitch in the matrix? Or a mirror held up to an entire media-drunk generation?

by John Washington, Guernica |  Read more:
Image: EIT!
[ed. What a world.]