“I was listening to happy hardcore and Britney Spears remixes till 6 AM”. That’s a quote from Petra Cortright via DIS magazine, one of many snippets of interviews pulled and put together to make up the content of the PETWELT press release. Accompanying the Berlin exhibition, in random order across fonts and sizes, these insights offer an introduction into the chaotic world of Cortright’s playful though pertinent persona that’s emerged and moved out of YouTube and into the gallery. This time showing at Société, five films spanning as many years between 2009 and 2014 present a brief retrospective of sorts, where a development becomes apparent while a certain stasis persists.
Across multiple video projections on the wide gallery walls across several separate spaces, ‘Sparkling I’ (2010) and ‘Don’t Warp With Door’ (2014) appear side by side in the first. The former film is set in a garden, where the artist – ever present in all of her webcam works – is surrounded by plants and trees. As Cortright moves in and among the branches they turn pink, sparkles following her motion as they then become black points that disappear into the sky. The viewer is drawn into a hypnotic fantasy world before a return to domesticity in ‘Don’t Warp With Door’ beside it. This time the artist is in a room, with a digital satin painting of her 2011 Night Heat series to the left and a white door to the right. Cortright is dressed in the black and white product of an AW14 Stella McCartney collection and video collaboration, as the door closes, bending in and out into glitch as her legs do when she walks away.
The glittering soundtrack of the previous room is intersected by a dance mix from the following where ‘Main Bitch’ (2012) is screening. Dressed in pink, wearing a long pink wig and some bunny ears, Cortright’s appearance is as lurid as the music in the background of her suburban setting. It’s heavy electronic music – early millennial Russian ‘lesbian’ duo t.A.T.u.’s ‘Ya Soshla S Uma’ (‘All the Things She Said’) among them – that’s played through blown-out speakers. Cortright’s preening movements of tousling her hair, lighting a cigarette and checking herself out are delayed by video effects while being interjected by shots of her shoes and bare corners of the empty room. It’s one of the few videos that features more than one shot.
At the other half of the Sociéte space is the sensual and motion-blurred video of ‘Bridal Shower’, originally commissioned for Frieze London last year. Here the artist dances in what looks like a makeshift wedding gown from a childhood playing pretend, while smoothing makes Cortright’s movements, slowed down and sped up, almost a pleasure to watch. Rose petals fall from the sky to a track produced by Nightcoregirl and edited from the high res porn animation of Affect3D’s Girlfriends 4 Ever teaser, setting the erotic and objectified undertone.
As in ‘Main Bitch’ Cortright plays out a certain role within a setting that is contrary to the last video on show, ‘When You Walk Through the Storm‘ (2009). With no setup or costumes, it returns its audience to where her work began, as the artist sits in front of her webcam, waving her hand effortlessly back and forth and followed by simulated water that blurs her face. It’s a relapse to the simple gestures of Cortright’s early days. Expanding on the tools and drawing on more direct and secure movements, PETWELT points to Cortright’s stronger grasp on her chosen media and their influence on her work through time. Yet even now, as more a performer and less a cam girl, it’s clear that the image may have changed but the effects remain the same. **