“Yeah, it was the ’90s. Everyone danced in the ’90s,” says Tom Marquet, explaining how he met co-curator Carl Gunhouse.
“Carl and I have known each other since we were in junior high school. And we kind of grew up together in the New York hardcore scene. We went to shows a lot. I went to more shows than I can count.”
While this bit of personal history might seem irrelevant to their first curatorial effort, Restore Defaults, up now in Williamsburg’s Camel Art Space, it is, in fact, the heart of the show.
Marquet explains, “Restore Defaults is an exhibition of artists who use elements already of interest in the world as a starting point for their art. Rather than seeking to disguise or destroy these beginnings, they embrace and emphasize their role in the process of creation.” Whether it’s blocks of cream cheese, a computer, a highway, an advertisement, or even dog toys, the show examines the artists’ creative path that can result in a return to their origins. In some ways, this is what Marquet and Gunhouse are doing as curators.
The idea for Restore Defaults began as a conversation between Marquet and Gunhouse after Rob de Oude, the director for Camel Art Space, offered the gallery for an exhibition of their choosing. Marquet says that collecting for the show was pretty organic, but admits that the two had competing impulses. “He’s a more cheerful version of me, I think,” Marquet laughs, adding, “with better vision and more hair.” The fact that the two are longtime friends provided their own personal context within which to work. “We know each other well enough where we could actually go back and forth and say, I don’t like this. And the other one could say, I do. And that goes back to introducing each other to bands.”
In discussing potential artists for the show, Gunhouse had recently seen the work of video artist Jenny Drumgoole, a sort of wacky multimedia Cindy Sherman, whose work became a centerpiece for Restore Defaults. Watching Drumgoole is strangely addictive. Her “Q&A With The Real Women of Philadelphia” is a series of videos the artist made while competing in the “Real Women of Philadelphia,” a Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Paula Deen sponsored recipe contest. She began the project partly to please her mother, a fan of Deen’s, but the project, thanks to the Internet, took on a life of its own.
“It’s really hilarious stuff,” Marquet says. “I love it. And part of what we both really responded to was that it has this whole life on the Real Philadelphia Cream Cheese website. Which is to say that the context that it’s sort of derived from was actually its natural home.”
Drumgoole’s video recipes run the gamut of creamy pasta made in the bathroom sink or sculpting with it. In these various episodes, she bops around, makeup or hair often askew, always in service to cream cheese and Paula Deen. Though she didn’t win the grand prize, Drumgoole did win the favor of her fellow contestants. The comments on the site are fascinating, proving the cream cheese-loving women of Philadelphia are not haters. Rather, they embraced and championed Drumgoole’s work. An abbreviated version of her entire project is screening for Restore Defaults.
A second artist that Marquet and Gunhouse were interested in was composer and percussionist Nathan Davis. Fresh off his Lincoln Center piece, Bells, an aural experience that utilized audience members’ cell phones as instruments of sound and noise, Marquet says that Davis “teaches you how to listen in a very slow way. There’s a David Foster Wallace idea where he talks about how good writing makes you realize how smart you are or shows you how to pay attention and I think that’s what Nathan’s music does. It focuses you on, in this case, the computer; that the computer itself is a source of sound as well.”
Davis employs the literal sounds of a computer processing. “He puts in a CD to start it spinning up,” Marquet describes, “and it’s a weird dramatic moment that sounds like there’s a plane landing from outer space.”
In addition to Drumgoole and Davis, Restore Defaults also includes the work of Hilary A. Baldwin and Matthew Ward, Calvin Lee, and wacdesignstudio. The show runs through May 1. On Friday, April 8, there will be a special performance by Nathan Davis, accompanied by International Contemporary Ensemble member Joshua Rubin, at 7:30pm.
For more information, Camel Art Space, 722 Metropolitan Avenue, 2nd Floor, Brooklyn, www.camelartspace.com.