ELECTRONIC SUPERHIGHWAY (2016-1966)
Set up to be experienced in reverse chronological order, this collection of over 100 multi-media works explored the ways that artists have adopted, responded to, and critiqued new technology over the past six decades. I was eager to attend this show, not only because my practice was concerned with the ways that technology has changed the way we think and act and experience the world, but also because I was keen to expand my knowledge of the ways artists integrate technology into the making and presentation of their work.
The exhibition was large, complex and fragmented, like its subject, and approached an incredibly wide range of subjects from virtual reality and authenticity to gender and sexuality. In one 2012 work, Evan Roth’s Self Portrait, an enormous wave of paper cascades from the wall and spreads out onto the floor, a physical representation of the artist’s online activity in a single day. This avalanche seems to pick up velocity and lose coherence as the images become smaller and more concentrated, and the effect is deeply unnerving. On the second floor, I was particularly interested in Mexican artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s 1990 interactive installation Surface Tension, an early warning against Big Brother type surveillance, in which a rudimentary computer surveillance system takes the form of an all seeing eye that follows the viewer around the room.
This piece and many others emphasized for me the way video-based work can open up new modes of experience between the artist and the viewer, and increased my interest in applying these techniques in my own practice, while still retaining the strong elements of process and craft. Traditional methods, types of artistic labour, and even use of gallery space have different meanings where much of one’s work can be presented digitally. Electronic Superhighway provided useful historical background and a wide variety of ideas to draw from as I begin this exploration.