by Cory Arcangel



“Perhaps best summed up by thinking abstractly about the phrase: AMERICA ONLINE.”

– Cory Arcangel is a search for America. In the film Easy Rider (1969), Wyatt, Billy, and George discussed freedom around a fire. Billy asked, “What the hell is wrong with freedom, man? That’s what it’s all about!” George replied, “Oh yeah that’s right, that’s what it’s all about alright, but talkin’ about it and bein’ it, it’s two different things.”

Around 2006, Arcangel returned to this search for America—but this time, Wyatt, Billy, and George would search for America online. Using a real-time chat room protocol called Jabber (now called XMPP), the script was meant to form a chat room in which tiny avatars of the three characters would play out dialog from the movie. The Perl script, never finished, is sliced and strung together in a manner almost musical. Arcangel’s code takes on an operatic anxiety akin to Christopher Wool’s canvases, both artists revealing the frenetic, even Mallarméan, realities of text-based communication. Whether you take on the challenge of finally creating the chat room, or you absorb the formal beauties of the code itself, will never stop asking what freedom really is.

This work is part of the series Files, available exclusively on Badlands’s website. Artists in the 21st century have a multitude of technological options for creating artworks. Using a computer, artists now print paintings, extrude sculptures from plastic compounds, even automate entire performances from a laptop. But whatever the form the work finally takes, it was first and foremost a file—a computer file that the artist created in order to control and direct the devices at her disposal. Artists using technology are all, in this regard, filemakers.

A file is the work before the work. It is the “score” that directs the printer, or projector, or speaker to create the form of expression we experience. And as such, artist files hold immense value and potential in contemporary culture. They are works in their own right that illuminate the sensibilities and ideas of some of the most compelling artists working today.

Each file is created by the artist and is saved as a document derived from the originating software that the artist used to create the file and subsequent work. As an essential element of the final work, the file is unique in how it manifests the “spirit” of what the work ends up becoming.

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Perl script (.pl)

5 KB

Downloaded as a specially designed disk image installer (.dmg). Recommended for Apple computers.


Cory Arcangel

Cory Arcangel is a Brooklyn-based artist (b. 1978, Buffalo, NY) who makes work in a wide range of media, including composition, video, modified video games, performance, and the Internet. Over the past two years, Arcangel has completed several diverse projects. He recently presented a solo booth of artist publications and artworks at the 2015 New York Art Book Fair at MoMA PS1, New York, NY under the auspices of his publishing and merchandise imprint, Arcangel Surfware. In 2014, he worked extensively with a team of computer experts from the Carnegie Mellon Computer Club, in collaboration with The Andy Warhol Museum, The Carnegie Museum, and the Carnegie STUDIO for Creative Inquiry to unearth and preserve Warhol's lost digital experiments, which he wrote about for the 2014 summer edition of Artforum. Also in 2014, he released his debut novel, Working On My Novel, published by Penguin.

His work is included in many public collections, including the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles, MoMA in New York, the Tate in London, Berlin's Neue Nationalgalerie, the Smithsonian Museum of American Art in Washington D.C., and the Migros Museum für Gegenwartskunst in Zürich.