Visual artist Tommy Malekoff explores the interconnection of natural and social phenomena across the American landscape. His videos center on disrupted or manipulated ecologies, often capturing moments in the field where life gives way to abstraction. Exemplary of his work is the looping, two-channel video Desire Lines (2019), for which the artist surveyed the sometimes-ecstatic and sometimes-idle happenings in the liminal space of parking lots.
From August 2017 to March 2019, Malekoff traveled through fourteen states, using a handheld camcorder to track the varied ways different social groups engage the ubiquitous and largely homogenous public space. The parking lot, described by Robert Smithson as a “cliché of infinity” and by James Wines as a “hostile slab,” is in Malekoff’s hands a surreal site of potential. We see a prayer circle release a rosary of balloons into the sky and a party emerge from the exhaust of burnouts. We see precise choreographies of beer cans, batons, and motorcycles. Wild horses graze, iguanas roam in herds. Parallels and disjunctures arise among the scenes, which are by turns staged and spontaneous. The result is a meditation on design and scale, necessity and invention, ritual and abandon.
“What I had initially envisioned as a series of ‘acts,’ or isolated performances, ultimately became an infinite loop of humans, animals and automobiles each reacting, in their own deeply individual ways, to the experience of freedom within a common landscape.” TOMMY MALEKOFF
The sound design, composed in collaboration with Joe Williams, comprises diegetic field recordings that have been stretched, amplified, and looped to become musical in effect. Originally conceived as a two-screen installation, Desire Lines is being streamed here for the first time. The video is constructed to play as a seamless loop, with no beginning, middle, or end, and may be entered here at random.
Raised in Greensboro, North Carolina, Malekoff (b. 1992) has exhibited Desire Lines at Moran Moran, Los Angeles (2020); Galleria ZERO, Milan (2021); and Gladstone Gallery, New York (2022). His most recent work, the multichannel installation Forever and Forever (2022), explores the Everglades region of Southern Florida. He is currently at work on a series of films inspired by three American cities in various states of entropy.
Text written by Annie Godfrey Larmon.