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Moving Image: Alex Da Corte’s TRUE LIFE

By Grela Orihuela and Bill Bilowit

April 15, 2013

Eminem eats cereal, staring directly at us across a table, watching us watch him, as though one of us is on TV.

“The thing is,” said Alex Da Corte in talking about his video piece TRUƎ LIFƎ, “I definitely am a sculptor and not a video artist.” That said, engaging Da Corte’s vivid sculptures is an action-based encounter, temporal and sequential like the progression of a film or video. “I don’t think of sculpture as static, as dead objects. I think of them as tracing an action. Sculpture is the unraveling of a familiar object.” His work often involves very familiar objects in uncomfortably close examination, sometimes in disturbing mashups. TRUƎ LIFƎ was an idea sparked in the shopping aisle.

“I kept noticing packaging of Cinnamon Life cereal with African-American people on it, and regular Life had white families, and I thought about that a while. I tried to make a few sculptures with actual Life boxes, positioning them to notice this difference,” but the idea was was not successful as a sculpture. “I continued to think about it, absorbing a culture that you’re not familiar with. Much of my work is about the skin of something, pulling it away and adding to it, disguising yourself– like costumes.”

Da Corte’s early work included a recreation of the psychopath’s costume from the Halloween movies. In the artist’s hometown of Haddonfield (yes, the town name in Halloween), Da Corte said he would “dress up like Michael Myers and stand outside watching my parents make dinner, and they wouldn’t know I was outside, watching them. I wanted to empathize with the Michael Myers character, who to many is really scary, but kind of like, not celebrated.”

His parents may not have noticed him experiencing, empathizing, perhaps slightly celebrating Michael Myers, but now, using video to frame his ideas, Da Corte is very noticed by a broad art audience, especially as he evokes uneasy, loaded aspects of American culture. “In the world I run in, Eminem is not necessarily the most stand-up guy. He has a lot to say and he’s very angry. He’s kind of misunderstood, but I wanted to understand him, what it would be like to be that character. I wanted to speak to that while in a costume that’s contrary to his misogynistic music, somewhere between chav street wear and a gay raver.”

Experiencing Eminem required vision-impairing blue contacts, hair dyed yellow, and eating multiple bowls of Cinnamon Life, but Da Corte’s an artist that would easily go to greater lengths. “I want to understand a world or a person that I don’t understand.”

Next for Da Corte is a show in May called “Bacon Brest” at the non-profit Artspeak in Vancouver, where he’s creating an elaborate setting that stems from the preeminent parlor game Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon. Will it include video work? “No, this will be a show about the moving picture industry, but with no moving pictures.”

Alex Da Corte was born in Cam­den, NJ in 1981 and currently lives and works in Philadel­phia, PA. He received his BFA from the University of the Arts and his MFA from Yale University in 2010. Da Corte had a solo pre­sen­ta­tion at the “First Among Equals” show at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia. His works have been shown at the Museum of Modern Art, MoMA PS1, TEAM Gallery, Yvon Lam­bert Gallery, and Nicole Klagsbrun Gallery in New York.

He has recently had solo shows at galleries and non-profit spaces in Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York, Spain, Paris, and Dublin, and his work is currently included in “PAINT THINGS: beyond the stretcher” at the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Boston, MA.

In 2012, Da Corte was named a Pew Fellow in the Arts by the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, Philadelphia, PA. He is represented by Joe Sheftel Gallery in New York City.

Moving Image is a monthly column of video art profiles curated by Grela Orihuela and written by Bill Bilowit, the founders of Wet Heat Project.

Alex Da CorteEminemTrue Life

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