Jeremy Shaw: Best Minds

Sep 10–Oct 10, 2011

MoMA PS1

Installation view of Jeremy Shaw: Best Minds at MoMA PS1, September 10–October 10, 2011. Photo: Matthew Septimus

Jeremy Shaw's (Canadian, b. 1977) work explores altered states and the
cultural and scientific practices that aspire to, or attempt to map, transcendental experience. Adopting strategies from the realms of conceptual art, documentary film, music video, and scientific research, Shaw's work has addressed topics ranging from psychedelic drug use and brain imaging, to teenage violence and time travel.

Presented at MoMA PS1 in a new, expanded configuration, Best Minds Part One (Expanded)'s three-channel video installation features slowed-down footage of the crowd at a straight edge hardcore concert in Vancouver, Canada. A subset of hardcore punk, with origins in the early 1980s, the DIY straight edge movement levels a critique against traditional hardcore, and is defined by a puritanical rejection of the nihilistic tendencies commonly associated with punk, namely alcohol consumption, substance abuse, and sexual promiscuity.

Drawing upon his background as both visual artist and musician, Shaw replaces the video's sound with an original score that quotes The Disintegration Loops (2002) of avant-garde composer William Basinski, a series of sound recordings of deteriorating tape reels that document the devolution of analog technology. An emphasis on disintegration is also present in the low resolution of the footage, which was recorded using a handheld digital camcorder under low lighting conditions. The artwork's visual and aural decay, coupled with the simultaneous hysteria and literal sobriety of Shaw's abstinent subjects, hints at Best Minds' titular reference to the opening of Allen Ginsberg's seminal poem Howl (1955), itself a highly charged lament and counter-cultural touchstone. The title also refers to a predominant straight edge belief that a self-imposed, ‘clean' lifestyle is inherently a better one.

The melancholy tempo and tone of Shaw's ambient composition, combined with the slow motion footage, transpose violent displays of macho ecstasy into meditative, balletic passages. This exaggerated mode of presentation magnifies each of the slam dancers' ecstatic moments, allowing viewers to closely identify and examine the observable features of euphoric catharsis. While the work takes as its subject the uniquely sober state of straight edge punks, the three channels surround and immerse the viewer, who as a result becomes not only an observer but also a mesmerized participant.

Jeremy Shaw: Best Minds is organized by Klaus Biesenbach, Director of MoMA PS1 and Chief Curator at Large of The Museum of Modern Art.

Artist

Installation images

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].

Licensing

If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit https://www.moma.org/research-and-learning/circulating-film.

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].

Feedback

This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].