Installed in diagonal corners of the room, DFAI. 01-05 (2023) is split between two projectors on a staggered loop. While it’s a single work, it doesn’t appear as such, and with the unheeding pace of its vibrant text slides, there is little time to orient oneself in the overstimulating environment. Distinctive to Cokes’s practice is the manipulation of elements—color, text, and sound—to produce new meanings, a strategy that solicits attunement to different registers of legibility, requiring one to sit and endure what is at first illegible. The effect is an incisive probing of the politics of the attention economy. However, the site-specificity of the critique falters among an audience with little familiarity with Bridgehampton’s history.
In my time experiencing this work through two twenty-three-minute cycles, a majority of visitors did not stay long enough to endure just one of the five phrasal subsections, each punctuated by the same quote from German graphic designer Otl Aicher of the 1972 Munich Olympics: “Doing politics with color.” As the press release narrates, Aicher chose blue as one of the primary colors of the games over colors that are more traditionally associated with power. Like color, text carries its associations to power not just through content but through comprehension. It is the viewer’s choice to idle long enough to grasp the totality of the work, however, among a mostly wealthy audience whose time spent is measured through a return on investment (i.e., art’s primary vocation as commodity in the East End art scene), the installation’s duration impedes its ability to be understood upon initial encounter. A slide emphasizes this point: “Time is Life. Don’t Murder It.” It’s a rejection of the transformation of time as capital, an idea that comes up again in a citation Cokes includes on another slide that “Art is never a commodity,” and, despite its valuation, “art is far more secure and clear and truthful than all of this conjecture about the actions of human beings.” The work additionally discloses the uses of art among “commoditicians” (private collectors, public institutions, and art socialites) who encounter art first in its circulation as property rather than privileging its aesthetic experience. Against the predominantly consumerist and transactional habits of the Hamptons’ art scene and its clientele, Cokes’s work exceeds the bounds of art’s expected modalities, where contemplation of the work comes secondary.
Adjacent to the two projectors is DFAI.06 (2023), which consists of colored gels on the room’s four windows. Red, green, blue, and yellow gels filter natural light to take up the specters of luminosity that Cokes refers to in a slide with a quote by Flavin from a 1965 issue of Artforum: “Now the entire interior spatial container and its parts—wall, floor and ceiling, could support this strip of light but would not restrict its act of light except to enfold it.” Flavin’s nine sculptures in fluorescent light (1963–81) exhibited on the floor above demonstrate light’s capacity as a reconstructive medium. Cokes cites texts throughout the video that mark the shift from Flavin’s play with the rigidity of physical structures through illusion to his relation of the works to people, designating them as objects of memorial with color as a referential element. Cokes mirrors this practice through dedications to local establishments and organizations such as DePetris Food Market, Tiffany’s Pharmacy, or the Silverleaf Club of Bridgehampton—situating the work firmly in the context of the community it resides in.