With a new year comes new possibilities and it’s in the impenetrable world of US art collective Paper Rad that they can be fully explored. At the vanguard of the ‘New Media’ wave of young artists delving into the black hole of the all things 8-bit and html5, the three core members Jacob Ciocci, Jessica Ciocci and Ben Jones are messiahs of modern media, and part of the exciting crop of cross-platform practitioners that include James Ferraro, and Ryan Trecartin.
They’ve collaborated with artist Cory Arcangel and Paul B Davis, who pioneered the field in the mid-90s, culminating in his vinyl release of songs composed by hacked video game consoles 8-Bit Construction Set in 2000. Not ones to leave one of the most essential areas of creative life out, Paper Rad are also associated with several musical offshoots including Extreme Animals and ROTFLOL, while commercial venture Wyld File is credited with producing music videos for the Gossip and Beck. Meanwhile, Jones has a series called Problem Solverz on Adult Swim channel -the same one responsible for launching the careers of Tim & Eric. The comedians have a similar aesthetic to Paper Rad -although theirs is a satire of free-to-air television programming, rather than ‘omnimedia’ art and music based in the digital world.
Starting with their website, a real web of links and projects in the Paper Rad universe highlights the hyper productivity of these artists, as well as the fact that aural and visual art are interchangeable in their universe –a common thread among other young artists like Maria Minerva, Hype Williams and Micachu. Paper Rad, particularly, is the ultimate realization of the postmodern fixation on pop cultural plundering and pastiche. Nineties kids TV icons Gumby, Garfield and Troll dolls are recurring motifs in their work. Their music videos can include everything from Miley Cyrus to tween recycling manifestos, while their Cory Arcangel collaboration includes a look into the life and times of Super Mario in Super Mario Movie.
The cross-media approach of groups like Paper Rad share similarities with the early No Wave and Mutant Disco groups of downtown New York that saw artists like Basquiat performing in bands for a second and experiencing a period of incredibly productivity and experimentation before finally moving on to a specialization. Paper Rad’s focus on RGB-only restrictions, as outlined by their Dogman ’99 manifesto (satirizing Von Trier’s Dogme 95), along with inattention to detail and nostalgia is also comparable to punk art.
(The Problem Solverz is an animated series created by Ben Jones and picked up by Cartoon Network last year)
Except that, where punk culture is more focused on a fetishistic limited release product, Paper Rad restricts access via information ‘overshare’. Here, rather than making things inaccessible through anachronistic modes of dissemination –like vinyl, cassettes and zine culture –they make everything available to a point where it is overwhelming and ultimately indecipherable.
An embodiment of short attention spans, fragmented processes (and processing) and constant stimulation to the point of overkill, Paper Rad and others like them are the real future of art and entertainment –whether we like it or not.