Momenta Art is pleased to present Rare Earth, a solo exhibition of works by Mark Tribe. Tribe uses video, performance and print media to examine the aesthetic dimensions of political action. His latest project explores the function of landscape as a symbolic setting for paramilitary combat in video games and in the training exercises of right-wing militia groups.
For this exhibition, Tribe has produced photographs of lush landscapes found in contemporary video games and a video of a militia training ground in Upstate New York. The photographic landscapes appear at first to be real, but careful examination reveals that they are actually computer generated simulations. Like the photographs, the video depicts a picturesque landscape. It is comprised of a single, static shot: the camera remains motionless, and only the subtlest of movements, such as a blade of grass swaying in the breeze, reveal that it is, in fact, a motion picture. The photographs and the video are at once seductive and destabilizing. As we begin to question the authenticity of these landscape representations and the reliability of our perceptions, the relationship between militia training and video game play—one real, the other a simulation–is also called into question. Many younger militia members are avid gamers. Are these militiamen, training to protect themselves from an imagined threat, merely reenacting the battles that they fight on screen? In an age of predator drones flown by pilots weaned on video games, the blurring of boundaries between the real and the virtual has far-reaching implications.
Just as the behaviors of the figures in first-person shooter games conform to established vocabularies of action (running, ducking, crawling, shooting), so, too, Tribe implies, do the actions of actual militia men in their training exercises. A similar set of conventions governs the representation of landscape; even in video games, a popular commercial medium, depictions of the natural world recall the traditions of Western landscape art (such as the compositions of Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, and other Hudson River School painters). In Rare Earth, Tribe draws our attention to a new form of landscape representation that bridges digital culture and art history.
Tribe’s previous work examines the role of performance and mediation in political protest. Port Huron Project (2006-09), was a series of reenactments of protest speeches from the New Left movements of the Vietnam era. Presented during a period of widespread opposition to the Iraq War, the reenactments explored the rhetorical conventions of leftist political protest in the U.S. In The Dystopia Files (2010-11), a series of video installations and screenings, Tribe looked at interactions between police and protesters as a form of ritualized public theater.
Mark Tribe was born in San Francisco in 1966 and lives in New York City. His work has been exhibited at SITE Santa Fe; MDE11, Medellín; G-MK, Zagreb; Centre Pompidou, Paris; and LACE, Los Angeles. He has received grants from Creative Capital and the New York Foundation for the Arts. He is an Assistant Professor at Brown University and a member of Art Practice MFA faculty at SVA. In 1996, Tribe founded Rhizome, an organization that supports the creation, presentation, preservation, and critique of emerging artistic practices that engage technology.