Want to be my friend? Technology asked Art. Cornell Art Museum answered with augmented reality, emojis and touch screens.
On view through March 30, Tech Effect looks at contemporary art’s response to and adoption of technology with the help of 12 artists who marry technology and creativity and understand their relationship’s current status is not that complicated. The new exhibit also includes immersive gallery installations and pieces featuring code.
This is clearly not a case of if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. The artworks on view have been conceived with technology in mind from the beginning and by choice. Take their computerized attributes away and they would fall flat. That’s because the wires are not ornaments that have been added for the sake of saying “behold, technological art.” They are the central nervous system to the works on display, which is to say essential.
A sculpture titled #CLOUD9, by Pia Myrvold, embodies this perfectly. Visible cables, lights, projectors, metal parts, plastic security tags and umbrellas compose the exposed skeleton of this otherworldly piece. A stretched ladder reaching the second floor sits in for a spine. Meant as a reflection on consumption and electronic waste, the Norwegian artist forces us to face objects we usually keep hidden behind a wall or a cabinet. The longer we look, the more switches and extension cords get discovered. Approach from different angles and watch this stranded organism shift shape.
Tiny bulbs shine and go out like bursting blood vessels in Alain Le Boucher’s light sculptures. Artists like him provide an optimist view and the ideal approach to technology, which is to see it as a partner that lends special skills. Rather than perceive it as a rival, Le Boucher employs LEDs to enhance his metal-and-wire choreographies. The fragility and simplicity with which the French sculptor executed mechanisms such as Graine and Jacob’s Ladder (Les Echelles de Jacob) surely can be admired on their own. The fireworks just make them memorable amid other pieces in Tech Effect.
One thing to remember while walking the show: Hold on to your ego! Particularly when stepping inside the southern gallery room. Interactive pieces such as Jonathan Rosen’s The Future Is tempts the strongest of willpowers with an irresistible mirror that flashes uppercase phrases every second: THE FUTURE IS DETERMINED, and THE FUTURE IS CLONED. It is meant as a commentary on the narcissistic effect of social media; a point that is duly noted and, just as easily, dismissed in favor of the main attraction. Once predictably hypnotized, we are happy to indulge and accept the invitation to feed the ego via selfies taken in front of the mirror. The tone of Rosen’s message is still somewhat benign compared to other artists in delivering a greater sense of urgency.
Egyptian artist Sara Zaher turns the message into a loud warning with three pieces from 2016 featuring LED lights. One of them, The Lost Generation: 0 Followers, is a recipe for anxiety or a panic attack. It reveals our worst fears of being excluded and irrelevant and cautions us against over-reliance on superficial confidence boosters. Zaher’s The Lost Generation: Wish You Were Here comments on the lack of human touch and interaction resulting from our excessive screen time. It depicts a nude woman giving herself a hug. The vulnerable pose and self-embrace suggests nobody is available or capable of providing the much-needed affection. Glowing text boxes expressing the woman’s wish trail her bare back.
As if prophesying the fate awaiting all technologies sooner or later, Daniel Fiorda buries a typewriter in white plaster and concrete. This is No More Dialects #4. The obsolete object still favored by nostalgic writers has fused with the white, milky surface and appears trapped like an insect caught in amber. As Myrvold, Fiorda’s pieces pay tribute to hardware displaced by emerging instruments. The self-taught Argentinian artist imagines here what the afterlife looks like for tools with no more practical use and inevitably makes us feel guilty for the role we played in their demise.
If karma exists, we better watch out. If it doesn’t, well, paranoia might just be another Tech Effect.
Tech Effect runs through March 30 at the Cornell Museum of Art, Old School Square, Delray Beach. Museum hours: Tuesday-Saturday, 10 am-5 pm. Closed Sundays, Mondays and holidays. Admission: $8; $5 seniors and students with ID; free for veterans, children under 12, and Old School Square members. Call 561-243-7922 or visit www.oldschoolsquare.org for more information.