Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin are among the most acclaimed artists working today. Known for maniacally-paced films combining color, sound, character and computer effects, they have been called video art visionaries. The two artists met in 2000 at the Rhode Island School of Design and have been collaborators for the past 14 years. In 2006, at the age of 26, Trecartin became the youngest artist included in the Whitney Biennial; since then the duo has presented solo exhibitions at MoMA PS1 as well as at the 2015 Venice Biennale.
What they do: The artists explore how cameras, social media, and reality TV have changed the way we engage with the world and with one another. Their videos are made up of props, sets and digital effects they invent themselves. There is no plot, and their characters live in a post-gender, post-racial world, taking on various identities, sexualities, genders, and races. A character can be many people at the same time, shot in offbeat environments created by the artists. Trecartin works with a regular group of collaborators who are free to improvise.
The project for W: In this project for W’s Art Issue, titled "placebo pets," supermodels Kendall Jenner and Gigi Hadid appear as super friendly, domesticated humanoid pets. The idea grew out of the artists wondering: “Who would survive if a superior alien humanoid species came to Earth?” Their answer: “The friendliest.” Fitch and Trecartin see in our relationship to pets a parallel with our relationship to technology, in the way that we’ve been trained to adapt our behavior, our language, and the images we choose to present our changing selves. “There’s a certain power that animals have over us when they respond to us in unexpected, friendly ways,” says Trecartin. “And it’s really them domesticating us almost more than us domesticating them, because they’re training us to want them. Training and taming something is not one-sided. We created social media, but then it changed us because we interacted with it. It transforms us and transforms the next thing that happens just by existing. You can’t really avoid being trained.”
Fitch and Trecartin were also intrigued by the friendship between Jenner and Hadid, and the way their identities have morphed into a combined idea of friendship, known as “KenGi." The millennial offspring of reality-TV momagers literally grew up onscreen — Jenner beginning at 11 in the Kardashian family saga, Hadid as a toddler in Baby Guess ads. "It’s both a friendship and a public commodity to be consumed,” says Fitch.
Watch "placebo pets", an original project for W by artists Lizzie Fitch and Ryan Trecartin: