My Best Thing
My Best Thing by Frances Stark, is 100 minutes long, divided into ten episodes, like a cartoon or soap opera. It opens with simply rendered Playmobil-style 3D “dolls” having a online sex chat in a green-screen world, the characters begin to fill the world with videos that come up as their dialogue shifts from the cyber-sex to more personal material. As the video progresses, Frances' character worries that she should be finishing paintings for an upcoming exhibition and begins to wonder if she could use these video chat dialogues as the basis for her exhibition at the 54th Venice Biennale. There is a shift from anonymous and sexual interaction to greater intimacy and even collaboration between the characters.
“The video’s form and content show how the new modes of online communication allow for both greater intimacy and anonymity, giving rise to new kinds of behaviors and relationships.” (via Wikipedia, via PS1)
The dialogues the characters engage in are transcriptions of interactions from on-line video chats between Frances Stark and two Italian men. The title, My Best Thing, comes from the male character asking “Do you want to see my best thing?” referring to his penis. This character later disappears after being beaten by police in a political riot in Italy. The female character later mistakes a different Italian man for the My Best Thing character. This second male character describes a film by his father that distressed him because it blurred the line between fiction and reality. Around this same time the characters in My Best Thing begin to review and discuss the making-of and first-versions of the video in a recursive and reflective kind of recursion.
Olivia Cha, writing for Frieze Magazine
“...it is precisely the limitations and inadequacies of these awkward avatars that elicit a profound kind of tenderness – one that mirrors our fears and failings with intimacy and love. Here, the artist struggles with the effable and ineffable experiences of subjectivity, the perpetual schism between the flatness of surfaces that enable linguistic communication (whether screen or page) and the more sensuous and palpable dimensions of desire and the body, which rarely find form in language.” Cha, Olivian (January 20, 2016). “Frances Stark”
Much of Stark's work navigates the chaotic spaces of technology and their implications for our personal relationships. Stark created “My Best Thing” using a now-defunct freeware text-based video production program called xtranormal, the logo of which appears in the lower-left corner of the entire movie. Stark has also used Powerpoint and Instagram as means of producing artwork; part of an overall practice of using technologies and software that are readily-available and user-friendly. Stark describes wanting people to have an experience with some intimacy, even though the voices and physical representations are digital.
Parallels between the art of Frances Stark and Molly Soda can be seen in their mutual engagement with multiple (though different) media, as well as the exploration of the mediation of self within the internet age. Molly Soda's work is very confessional, delving into similar depths of intimacy to the work of Frances Stark. For example, Molly Soda toys with the tropes of Youtube product reviews, as in Products I've Used Up! Empties December 2015, and make-up videos, as in GRWM ~ Get Ready With Me! Easter Edition. Molly Soda's very active Youtube account is an example of her use of common internet platforms as venues for her artwork. Similarly, she has long used her Tumblr as a primary outlet for her art. Almost any of Molly Soda's videos also employ diary/baring self/tropes of internet culture, as in a recent work by Frances Stark. Frances Stark differs from Molly Soda in her works more overt references to the literary and art historical.
Andrew Berardini for Mousse Magazine reflects on these qualities of Frances Stark's practice:
“Though emerging from a literary tradition, she still wrestles with the problems of art history, visuality, and space, but through the potency of poetry and writing, a self realized with words. Using the raw material of life to deal with the problems of art history...” Berardini, Andrew. The Letter Writer, Frances Stark
This use of the raw material of life is a key component throughout Stark's interdisciplinary art practice that includes collages, drawings and paintings, and performances, in addition to video. How the self is represented in the (post-)internet age is a primary focus of her work in all these media. Within My Best Thing it can be seen when Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 comes up as a recommendation from the male character. The female character watches a large portion of 8 1/2 within My Best Thing making a reflexivity between the two works clear. Both movies can be seen as long-form works that look at the friction between a chaotic personal life and a productive artistic life.
My Best Thing Exhibitions =
My Best Thing premiered at the 2011 Venice Biennale
Upfor Contemporary Art in Portland, Oregon
ICA (Institute of Contemporary Arts) London
Banff Center, Alberta, Canada
Southbank Centre, Hayward Gallery, London, UK
My Best Thing = https://vimeo.com/136163175
interview with Frances Stark and excerpts https://vimeo.com/38244867
wikipedia = https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frances_Stark
dotcom = http://francesstark.com/wp/
instagram = https://www.instagram.com/therealstarkiller/?hl=en
UH-OH @ Hammer Museum
review from LA Times = http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/arts/la-et-cm-frances-stark-hammer-review-20151112-column.html