It was quite fortuitous, then, when we were approached last fall by the administrators of Currents, a international festival of new media art that takes place each June. Now in its 6th year, Currents wanted to take its festival state-wide, and invite museums, galleries, and other institutions across New Mexico to host new media exhibits. When we were asked to participate, I readily agreed, because after all, why start from scratch when you can collaborate with an organization that has far more familiarity with new media art than you?
Over the winter, I reviewed dozens of works, from sound installations to video, robotic sculptures to animation. It was a fun, challenging experience to select a finite number of pieces from this group, but ultimately I selected four works that spoke to the Museum's own collections on some level.
Let's take a look:
|Eve Andree Laramee, Waste of Space, 2014. Courtesy of the artist.|
This is a still from a video called Waste of Space by Eve Andree Laramee. The work is inspired by the Harmonices Mundi (Harmony of the World), a book by Johannes Kepler that considers, among other things, the laws of planetary motion and the underlying order and geometry of the universe. The video features images taken from the Kepler telescope, and superimposes them with charts and drawings from the original book. Laramee also considers the consequences of space exploration, however, by including images of old satellites and other space debris floating around the Earth. In short, it's a work that juxtaposes the ideals of universal harmony and balance with the reality of the debris that can go along with space exploration. With the Goddard collection being our most popular exhibit, this work was a natural choice. In addition to the video, I've included several framed prints depicting stills from the piece.
This is actually a two-part installation. Once I told Laramee that I was interested in showing her work, I mentioned that I intended on keeping it up through the UFO Festival in July. She then mentioned that she had recently completed a project called Marfa UFO, in which she took several photographs down in Marfa, TX, and photoshopped UFOs into them.
|Eve Andree Laramee, Marfa UFO #3, 2015. Courtesy of the artist|
So for those of you who think I've been ignoring Roswell's UFO legacy, here are some flying saucers for you. More importantly, I thought the images formed a playful foil to the more heady content of Waste of Space, while still addressing the significance of space culture to our society.
|Wojciech Gilewicz, Painter's Painting, 2014, still from HD video. Courtesy of the artist.|
This still is from Painter's Painting, a video by Wojciech Gilewicz. Filmed over a period of four years, 2010-2014, Gilewicz depicts himself painting in a variety of locations around the world, from busy intersections to burning fields, ancient ruins to shopping malls. The props that he uses, the traditional easel, palette and brush, create a humorous, almost disjointed contrast with Gilewicz's diverse settings, and playfully ask whether conventional painting can and should keep up with today's world. With painting forming such a prominent part of the RMAC's own collection, I appreciate the video's questioning of this medium.
|Gerhard Mantz, Painting by Numbers: Allegro Scherzando, 2014, still from HD video. Courtesy of the artist.|
This work is a still from Painting by Numbers: Allegro Scherzando, by Gerhard Mantz. What you're seeing here is a still from a video filming a computer software in the act of painting. What Mantz did was create a software that has the capability to create new "paintings" using an infinite combination of lines, colors, and marks. What I'm showing is just a video on loop, so viewers will only see a limited number of works being made, but the software itself is capable of creating new works perpetually. Allegro Scherzando explores the nature of not only painting, but creativity itself, and whether it really is the prerogative of humanity. Whereas Gilewicz's video asks whether traditional painting is still relevant to today's global society, this work explores the nature of technology in what has conventionally been considered exclusively human activities.
|Margaret Noble, Dorian's Gray, 2014, mixed media installation. Courtesy of the artist.|
Finally, this is a frontal view of an installation called Dorian's Gray by Margaret Noble. Whereas the other works I've shown are primarily videos, this is a multi-media installation, with sculpture, visual projection, and sound coming together in a single work. Its primary theme is the complexity of identity, and the title itself comes from The Picture of Dorian Gray, which addressed the contrast between inner identities and superficial appearances.
Basically what you're seeing is are several picture frames that have been manipulated to look like broken mirrors. Behind this work is a projection that consists of two images. The first projection is actually a live-film feed of these mirrors, filmed by a camera placed above the work in the ceiling. The second projection is a computer program that is taking this same image of picture frames and manipulating it through various visual filters. What you've got, then, is an analog projection and a digital projection superimposed over one another, with the two becoming indistinguishable. Dorian's Gray is essentially a metaphor for our own identities. In other words, which identity is more real to us: our everyday, lived reality as we interact face-to-face with other people, or our digital identities as presented through such platforms as Facebook and Twitter? To be sure, none of the works in our collection deal with Facebook, but identity is an ongoing issue in much of art, so it felt appropriate to me.
In short, all of the works featured here address some intriguing conceptual ideas, and underscore the diversity of new media as an artistic platform. If nothing else, the galleries will be especially lively this summer, so if you're in town, be sure to check it out, and be sure to take a look at Currents itself.