Okay Mountain Collective

Austin Museum of Art, Austin

Through November 14, 2010
by Dan Boehl

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      Okay Mountain Collective
      (installation view) Water, Water Everywhere So Let's All Have a Drink
      Courtesy of the artists

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      Seventeen minutes into the Okay Mountain Collective’s (OKMT) new work at AMOA, Water, Water Everywhere So Let's All Have a Drink (2010), a woman appears. So far the interlaced segments of the 28-minute looped video have been filled with images one would find while channel surfing late on a six-pack-filled Saturday night. There are pain pill ads where men’s backs blow out while performing handyman tasks; there’s a circlejerk of a poker competition; there is an ambiguous black and purple ad for “Horny Storm,” and nonsense cartoons. These are followed by the opening credits to the world’s saddest sitcom, Alone in Life, in which a man drives, eats CiCi’s pizza, watches TV, and sleeps alone, all while the Perfect Strangers theme plays. In a very subtle and funny way Water, Water presents the litany of fears that plague adult men of a certain age. Like all of OKMT’s work, the video is distinctly masculine, funny, self-aware, and insular. It is also their best work to date.

      Which brings me back to that woman at minute seventeen: Nadine Volicer, identified by floating text as “Former Intern.” Sitting in a dark, fern-filled living room, Volicer bemoans, “I didn’t know what my position entailed. I didn’t know what my job title was, even. I mean, they were totally disorganized. I would basically sit around all day waiting to be told what to do because they were so horrible at delegating. But the worst part of it was” -- here the channel jumps three times before returning to Volicer -- “it was a total boys’ club. They would sit around all day making raunchy small talk right in front of their clients, right in front of me. And they knew it made me uncomfortable.”

      The scene shifts to a man, a graphic designer of some sort, shrinking windows on his computer until he reveals a swimsuited woman with large breasts on his desktop. Volicer continues, “It was like every time I walked into that office I barged in on some disgusting little ritual.” The designer turns to the camera with a satisfied smile on his face. A disembodied arm cuts into the frame, its fist stamping “PIG” on the designer’s head like a Cheshire cat’s grin.

      Water, Water represents the burgeoning maturity of the Okay Mountain Collective. Volicer’s statement acknowledges the usual criticisms leveled at the collective: boys’ club, fart jokes. So far, OKMT has capitalized on their raunchy humor by creating inviting and fun shows, even if they are steeped in juvenile masculinity. Corner Store went over so well at Pulse Art Fair in Miami last year because, in the end, everybody likes a fart joke.

      OKMT are most successful creating immersive installations and narrative content. Corner Store (2009), Benefit Plate (2010), and Big Strange Mystery (2010) represent the immersive mode, where the work subsumes viewers, rendering them dumbfounded and delighted. Though the works seem simple, their complexity relies on the viewer’s previous experiences with everyday situations (convenience store, BBQ, history museum). Viewers’ expectations are challenged through active participation with the installation. On the other hand, the murals created for Austin Ventures in 2008 and Vanderbilt University in 2010, showcase the collective’s narrative mode, which is equally fun, but broaches broader, allegorical subject matter: Capitalism and War, respectively.

      Water, Water is an immersive video that mimics the viewer’s past experiences with late night cable. Much like the absurd Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! on Cartoon Network, it weaves a narrative by cutting different genres of programs together (commercials, talk shows, game shows) in a way that shows only the most poignant parts. For example, a weatherman talking about his failed marriage, a trucker confessing to the loneliness of the road, or a criminal breaking down on camera. The vignettes construct a narrative of vulnerability while maintaining OKMT’s sense of humor, blending the most compelling aspects of OKMT’s work. Appropriating the form of low-brow media as a way of examining and poking fun of masculine archetypes, OKMT allows itself the freedom to talk about real-life fears of real-life American men.

      Dan Boehl is a workshop fellow in the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant Program. His chapbook Les MISERES ET LES MAL-HEURS DE LA GUERRE is now available from Greying Ghost.

      + 1 Comment
      Lauri Wade-Higdon
      Oct 31, 2010 | 8:46pm

      Saw this exhibit at Bradley University.  I don’t remember the last time I laughed so much for so long.  It was an incredible experience—once we realized what we were watching.  So clever! We spent days remembering & laughing about different sketches.  What a great experience.

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