I first encountered artist Eugene Kotlyarenko about four years ago at a film shoot in Los Angeles. We were both playing extras in a music video for The Like, and our job was to dress like cute 60s kids and dance around the bar while the band played. There were dozens of us, but Euegene stood out by virtue of the fact that every minute or so someone—usually the assistant director—would scream his name, telling him to pipe down or listen up or please-for-the-love-of-god just cooperate. He seemed to exasperate the entire crew, but he danced like a total spazz for camera; wild-eyed and sweating like a subject in some conservative mid-century newsreel on youth culture, newly possessed by rock and roll. I didn’t know what his deal was, but he made for good footage.
The ecstatic stylings of Eugene Kotlyarenko’s acting extend to all of his film projects. Movies like 0s and 1s and Skydiver take stock narratives and refract them through the lens of new-media communication tropes. Multiple chat screens, intrusive pop-ups, the paradoxical coupling of intimacy and exhibitionism in the internet age are all manifest, making standard filmic devices like editing and cinematography seem almost passé, while confronting viewer with their own love affair with the screen. Guy Debord’s spectacle, now fully customizable on your PC or mobile device (!)
Kotylarenko’s latest endeavor is a slight departure stylistically, but still keeping in line with his digital-love ethos. Feast of Burden is an 12-part art-film Youtube series funded by the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art as part of Youtube’s Original Channels initiative. Written and directed by Kotylarenko and produced by Mieke Marple of Night Gallery, the series is mashup of avant-garde film buff allusions and melodramatic pop sensibility, doled out in bite-sized five-minute episodes that are the perfect dose for online serialization. Feast of Burden follows a group of old friends who get together for a dinner party, only to find themselves trapped by supernatural forces, illicit love triangles and murderous ulterior motives. Surrealism is intoned by the acid-hued set design and campy performances by characters whose names derive from the hierarchy of car models (Jimmy Yukon, Sob Moonroof, et. al.) And it wouldn’t be a Silverlake dinner party without someone bringing their hot witchy girlfriend along.
Like most art films, there are difficult, almost cringeworthy moments (the first episode opens with an underwear-clad Kotlyarenko psyching himself up to call his crush by rubbing his iPhone against his crotch), but the charmingly clunky production and cheesy acting often cohere into flashes of the truly brilliant and laugh-out-loud funny.
Despite a year of near constant derision for its administrative decisions and increasingly populist leanings, MOCAtv has debuted refreshingly controversy-free. Feast of Burden is the first in a series of original, museum-funded art programming made especially for the internet, and hopefully opens the door for even more models of creating, proliferating, and preserving new video art.
Feast of Burden premiers November 19th on MOCAtv