Appropriation has taken various turns over the past century. From Duchamp’s urinal sculpture to Sherrie Levine’s re-authored farm security photos, borrowing, stealing and creating derivative works from existing material has long become commonly accepted as a legitimate (and often very expensive) method of making art. Internet culture and shifting attitudes surrounding image authorship over the past decade have added a new layer to this discipline, with source material expanding to include Google maps, stock photography, spam emails, and even, in Cory Archangel’s case, video games.
Michael Itkoff’s ongoing How To video pieces continue this conversation by applying 21st century new media tools to imagery appropriated from 20th century how-to manuals. Itkoff’s resulting 10-65 second animated stills of men and women in various types of fitness gear, work wear, and athletic poses address notions of self-perfection with a comprehensive mix of humor and dry wit. Isolated on white, the figures blink rapidly through each stage of action, and often look more like animated caricatures than actual people.
The images themselves are pulled from various instructional books including Jane Fonda’s Workout Book, Bowling to Win and Tap Dancing, The Robert Audy Method. Itkoff’s process involves scanning, editing, isolating, and reordering the images originally used to illustrate these books, and ultimately displaying them on devices including iPads, custom built LCD screens and limited edition lightboxes.
For Itkoff, merging dated imagery and materials with new technology are a way of bridging old and new ideas about self-perfection. “The veneer of sleek perfection created by the iPads and bespoke video players contrast nicely with the analogue nature of the bodies highlighted in the video loops as well as the scans of the tattered vintage volumes from which they were scanned.”
While it’s easy to appreciate Itkoff’s How-To videos for their humor, social commentary, and perhaps some face value of irony, they also hold personal impact in their connection to his own strive for self-improvement. “I am pretty driven and am always trying to learn more and improve myself. This near-universal compulsion underlines the routine of our daily existence and helps to give it purpose and meaning.”
Bio: Michael Itkoff is an artist and Cofounder of Daylight as well as an Associate Professor at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan. He has spent time at the Annie Leibowitz Studio, Aperture Foundation, and Rizzoli International Publications. A monograph, 'Street Portraits', was published by Charta Editions in 2009. Michael's work is currently represented by the Kopeikin Gallery.