Pelham Art Center presents TechNoBody, a group exhibition that explores the mediated world’s impact on and relationship to the physical body in an increasingly virtual world. The exhibition will include video works, drawings and sculpture that alternately balance and question the hope and desire of the immaterial, extended, digital body against the realities of the physical, fragile, and ephemeral body. The exhibition will be on view from January 23 through March 21, 2015. An opening reception and free all ages art workshop will be held on Friday, January 23, 2015, 6:30 – 8PM. A Panel Discussion with the curator and the artists will be held on Thursday, March 19 at 6PM. Attendees will learn more about how the artists employ a diverse range of contemporary artistic tools, from cyberbodies, avatars and selfies to facial peel and simple paper and pencil. Curated by Patricia Miranda.
Technology has expanded humanity’s ability to alter the physical and intellectual worlds in significant ways. Modern digital technologies extend the borders of the body and mind, questioning the relentless tether to the material. Closely intertwined with our bodies, technology acts as our external brain, able to recall enormous amounts of information at a touch. It can act as avatar, realizing our best, worst, and most desired or unexpected self, promising to solve the intractable problems of the world. Utopian and aspirational, technology hints at a fountain of immortality, the imperfect self uploaded to faultless machine, while opening doors for the dystopian world of surveillance and corporate appropriation of our most private desires. And yet, the fragile real maintains a hold; the digital still presents in the physical. We exist, for now, in tangible bodies in real time and space, bodies that reveal our cultural circumstance of place, race, gender, and privilege, that age, fail, and cease to exist in the world. Technology, our intimate companion, develops with us and unbeknownst to us, and watches, as we are willingly captivated and captive to its charms, inspired by and fearful of its possibility. TechNoBody investigates the perceptions and experiences of the body in the technological world, engaging scientific concepts in the ambiguous language of art. These artists examine and problematize the role of the machine for both our private and public selves, deconstructing our tacit agreement to its terms.
Cynthia Lin creates enormous drawings using the most fundamental materials, graphite and charcoal on paper, meticulously detailing a miniscule portion of skin at monumental scale. Based on direct computer scans and internet sources, her drawings translate into a magnified image of every wrinkle, pore, and scar, a landscape of enacted life. The highly rendered images appear highly factual, but also evoke instinctive subjective reactions. They lead to reconsiderations of privacy, identity, gender, race, beauty, and mortality.
Laura Splan covers her body in cosmetic facial peel, which picks up and retains the detailed impression of texture and hairs on skin, and, shedding it like snake skin, embroiders it into deceptively delicate feminine garments. Her “Negligee, Serotonin” is embellished with the molecular structure of the neurotransmitter Serotonin. Serotonin is involved in the modulation of a variety of neural functions and responses including mood, aggression, sleep, sexuality, appetite, and the stimulation of vomiting. Splan’s work combines the scientific and domestic in a seduction revulsion act that confronts our ambivalence with the body.
Christopher Baker’s work examines the complex relationship between society and its technologies. Originally trained as a scientist, Baker’s artistic practice represents an uneasy balance of eager technological optimism, analytical processes, deep-rooted skepticism and intuitive engagement. Taking the notion of selfie to its ninth dimension, Hello World! Or: How I Learned to Stop Listening and Love the Noise, is a large-scale audio visual installation comprised of thousands of unique video diaries gathered from the internet. The project is a meditation on the contemporary plight of democratic, participative media and the fundamental human desire to be heard.
Claudia Hart adapts the forms and software normally used to create 3d shooter games. She transposes discussions about digital technology and a critique of the media through a feminist lens. Her work, On Synchronics: Song of the Avatars A collaborative artwork, was created with 24 alumni of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, with music by Peter Kusek, and sound design by Mikey McParlane and Claudia Hart. The work envisions a giant in the form of a collective digital body spanning the globe, interpreted and reinterpreted by 24 voices from around the world. Like the Michelangelo’s Slaves, On Synchronics avatars struggle to preserve their autonomy and in so doing, discover their humanity in a crudely commercial contemporary world that is all too often alienating, media saturated and unnervingly technological.
Carla Gannis’ work The Runaways is a performance video, where film of herself running in a real landscape, and her avatar recorded running in a virtual construction of a landscape, converge as operators in an ontological metanarrative. The central question I am posing is “who are we, as 21st Century minds and bodies, existing within the porous frameworks of sublime natural and technological environments?” Emerging from this query is in an absurdist “survival of the fittest” race, where she competes against her virtual self, i.e. her “super self”, an immortal piece of encoded human representation residing in a highly mutable digital land of Oz. In the realm of the algorithmic mind anything is possible and the virtual can teleport within seconds to an exotic tropical island or to a snowy winter wonderland, she asks- what are the implications of a real woman running down the middle of a rural highway, not yet denatured, on an icy morning, quite possibly imperiling her life? Once digital entertainment value is added, a kaleidoscopic sky and a 3D avatar, thinner and faster than she, do we really care?
Joyce Yu_jean Lee’s work life-sized video projections challenge the figure in space by shifting the conventional viewing perspective. The viewer standing from above watches the floor transform from a picture plane into a surface, a void, and negative space. In her work, First Light, she appears as though waking in a small space in the floor, where she gradually climbs her way out. The work confuses our notions of space, as the flat floor becomes a space, and the artist seems to climb out of the picture plane to join us in real space.
Victoria Vesna’s collaborative project, Bodies INCorporated, created in 1996 and updated for this exhibition, eerily anticipated the dark side of social networking, identity ownership and the idea of a “virtual body”. Participants are invited to construct a virtual body out of predefined body-parts, textures, and sounds, and gain membership to the larger body-owner community. An avatar is created out of 3D male, female and child body parts and 12 textures with embedded meaning that consists of new age idealism mixed in with corporate marketing. Once the body is defined, the owner has no rights and receives nothing in return. Mimicking how we freely sign away our privacy and rights in exchange for the use of technology, Vesna’s work highlights our daily willingness to hand over our lives to unseen corporate culture.