Ryan Brennan is one of those artists who is in a constant state of creating. His work encompasses all mediums- collage,video, mixed media, painting, drawing, even performance. And he seems to excel in each arena.
This was confirmed when I met one of his roommates. She told me he just wakes up, and “does stuff.” He thought it would be fun to create a cat door leading into his room (he has the cutest Persian ever, Vermillion), and using his carpentry skills- saw saw cut cut , voila, cat door. The cat door inspired a video, and naturally he is an editing wizard, voila, cat video for fun. He also makes handmade books, and combined this skill with performance and his video editing talents to create “Living Exercises.” This dvd/book set includes instructions for social experiments to be “done with friends”, with accompanying videos of Ryan and his friends executing them. The experiments involve interacting with one’s city, with exercises such as “City Board Game,” in which rolling a die determines where one walks through their city; and also “Hold Hands with a Stranger,” which challenges the idea of social interaction (would you hold hands with a stranger?).Ryan also works in sound. For non-profit No Longer Empty’s recent “Never Can Say Goodbye” exhibition, Ryan contributed the “Bling Box Orchestra.” (His previous project with No Longer Empty was a faux “bathroom residency” performance, where viewers were lead to believe he was living in a bathroom, video at the end of this entry). A self taught electronics whiz, Ryan wired 8 vintage boom boxes to each act as a separate channel, forming together to play a synchronized collaged history of hip hop, coming from one source computer. (I danced daily to a scaled down two boom box version of this installation at our Scope booth). The boom boxes also light up when it is “their turn,” the resulting pieces function as a part and a whole, thusly named an orchestra. The 30 minute loop is wired to an iPod Shuffle or a iTunes, and blends from one overly recognizable sample to the next. Never playing for more than ten seconds, each sample is recognizable enough to instill that nostalgic feeling, if not for the original song, then for the many that came after and sampled it- Freddie Scott’s soul classic “You Got what I need” blends into Biz Markie’s “Just a Friend” in seconds flat. Just a taste of each, enough to identify the source, the copy cat, yet also seamlessly blending the two.
And performance art? A recent performance at the Bruceforma included fellow artist Cleo Fishel and was their jab at Americans’ over consumption habits, entitled “Living Room.” The pair sat in a make shift living room, watched a Ryan-made video of a montage of news and television clips and consumed massive amounts of junk food, while other groups performed on stage.
Fusing together these elements,
Ryan created “cinemallages,” a collage/sculpture/video combination, in which the video is filmed throughout the piece, then is played within the piece. Art self-sufficiency. The film, “Close Your Eyes and Look as Far as You Can See,” is comprised of three chapters- One, Two and Two point Five, and thus yielded three separate collage/sculptures. The premise of the film is a breath of fresh air, in the underlying tone is one of hope. Many, many artists seem fixated with portraying negative dystopian futures. It is easy to talk about and address the destructive road we are heading down, misery does love company after all. But Ryan’s work address all these issues, while giving the viewer a feeling of hope. The main character in his film escapes the current messy situation of a world, and escapes to a future utopian world where he meets characters who teach him how to solve some of the many social, environmental, and economic struggles faced today. The “real world” portion stars Ryan, mixed with cartoony animation, but the Utopian dream uses stop animation to move from station to station- throughout the three collage/sculpture pieces. The result is an all-inclusive Utopian dream.
I just introduced a friend to Ryan’s work. Her response was, “He is like a male Miranda July. He makes me feel like I don’t do enough with my life.” Her feelings are completely justified, his 2009-2010 schedule seems that of an over achiever with solo shows at Brooklyn’s Work Gallery, Scope New York (with me), Part Time Studios in Philadelphia, a grant and exhibition at the National Arts Club in Gramercy park, and group shows at the Brucennial, two projects with No Longer Empty, and the Wassaic Summer Project, the list goes on- not to mention the smaller projects and Ryan’s day to day work. But jealousy aside, Ryan’s multi-media, multi-faceted, hope-driven pieces are as inspiring as his personal drive to create. By Lori Zimmer