In the past decade, Keren Cytter's artistic output has zigzagged through a tangle of mediums — from sculpture and painting to theater and dance to the acclaimed video pieces that have earned her shows at London's Tate Modern and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles.
A new survey at DiverseWorks, titled Video Art Manual after the recent project posted above, boils the Israeli-born artist's expansive body of work into a playful array of videos, drawings, crossword puzzles and photographs. Also featured: A collection of artifacts from Mai Tai University, a fake poetry school she created in 2010 that barely lasted 72 hours.
"I've always dreamt of being a writer, even when I was in art school," Keren Cytter says.
"I've always dreamt of being a writer, even when I was in art school," she tells CultureMap before starting a rundown of the show, which opens Friday. Looking at the short stack of novels she's penned since 2001, one would say that, perhaps, Cytter is a writer. But no, she sees herself as an artist.
For the uninitiated, Cytter's video art is a melee of film references, cable news snippets, fractured dramatic dialogue, art history and intentionally below-grade acting. And while the human brain may struggle to process it all in a single sitting, viewers will find themselves trying to forge mini-narratives from the mess.
"There's almost always some sort of story in my work," she explains. "That's usually how I start, actually. But as I work through a piece, it doesn't comes out much. I think they're just for me, really."
Even in two-dimensional pieces like Skull or The Goat — both on her website but, sadly, not in the DiverseWorks show — one gets the impression that a plot line is lurking just below the surface. This cinematic edge surfaces in a variety of ways, from the almost professional camera work of her videos to the librettos she writes for performances with her dance troupe, Dance International Europe Now (or DIE Now, for short).
These subtle narratives, she says, helps her evade the normal trappings of contemporary art, in which elements drawn from established art forms are isolated and redefined.
"Sometimes I find that a lot of contemporary art, especially performance art, can be analyzed in a very simple way. I don't really like that so much. I like theater and drama. When it's good, it's like you're reading a good book or watching a great movie."
Keren Cytter: Video Art Manual opens Friday night at DiverseWorks with a preview reception from 8 to 10 p.m. On Saturday at 2 p.m., Cytter herself with be on site for a special gallery talk.