Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Review: Algorithmia at Root Division

I visited Root Division for its recent Algorithmia exhibit before the actual opening. I'd been there before for Sound Device, a fascinating sound-art exhibit that was highly interactive. Expecting similarly smart, contemporary work I visited the gallery on a Friday afternoon.

I enjoyed a piece with goldfish in what appeared to be a maze. Fish Predictions
by Vita Mei Hewitt had real goldfish in some water in a wide shallow tank. Painted on the bottom of their tank were numbers. A paper on the wall instructed the viewer to choose a goldfish with which they identified, and note the number, explained on more paper. Each number was connected with an animal, which was your horoscope and related---according to the artist statement—to one's reincarnation. This was lovely to look at (fish are pretty) and amusingly absurd.

There was a piece with fur on objects, documented with three large photographs Phone, Mailbox and ATM and installed as fur wrapped around a keyboard on a pedestal in the gallery, the work of Emmanuelle Namont Kouznetsov. This stood out formally but did not engage or appeal to me. “Using rabbit fur, Namont's sculptures invoke the visceral to bring back our corporeal presence and question our oblivious subservience towards technology and the power of the machine.” I am not convinced.

I was excited when I saw Plumb System by Ryan Jones, composed of fifty plumb fixtures suspended from the same ceiling fixture. I immediately thought about multiplicity of centers, lack of a single objective reference, and other postmodern hype. I love interactive art, and with a sweep of my hand, sent them to swing, collide, and tangle, which would play into my preconceived meaning that much more. The gallery attendant stopped me and I disentangled them. It wasn't intended to be interactive after all. Unlike Kouznetsov, who over did it, Jones included no theory or conceptual explanation for his work, I wish he'd said something.

I met Lauren Scime, who had an interactive video piece called Video of the Future, a collaborative effort with Bryan Hewitt. A walled area of the gallery contained a wall of projected video. Viewers were supposed to enter and exit through separate doors and the number of people in the room determined which videos were played. The video content was eclectic: jellyfish, people on the street, plants in the wind.

I am always pleased to meet other interactive video artists and see what they are using. She had sonic range finders in each doorway to count the number of people coming in and going out. A good example of simplifying and controlling events to be able to use minimal sensors for an otherwise complex thing to sense-- the number of people in a room. and was using some free mac programming environment to do low-level video file selecting.

Using pre-recorded video content is something I have been considering; as it is I use only video captured in the installation. It was great to see what someone else has done with this. It has lead me to think (along with the ideas of my friends who do interactivity design for video games and whatnot) that having content that would create meaning and that would relate to the audience and their participation would be more engaging.

1 comment:

  1. It's really amazing how people come up with all these clever ideas. The video arts have been out for many decades now (probably it started hitting galleries in the late 70's, yet I don't see any end of it anytime soon. Actually I think it's getting even more popular as technology keeps rising. I've never personally involved with interactive art (other than flipping switches and stuff), because it always seems so technical ( I know that's just my fear!) although I do have my bachelor's degree in electronic engineering (what an irony!). And thanks for sharing your experiences.