The Art of Now

05.29.14

Art Goes High-Tech at These Four Innovative Exhibits

The art world is embracing the rapid advances in technology, producing creations that are highly innovative and just plain cool to look at.
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When it comes to art, degrees from MIT, collaborations with leading medical practitioners, and the infamously awkward Google Glass aren’t necessarily the first things that come to mind. But, in an age where technology is taking over almost every aspect of our lives—cars park themselves, drones can deliver our mail, and smartphones are now a major cause of anxiety—tech-fueled art is becoming less of a surprise and more of an expectation (at least if they want to keep our attention).

In 2013, MoMA’s Rain Room, with the aid of motion sensors, allowed visitors to walk through a room of free-falling water without ever getting wet. Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama had visitors waiting three hours to see her “reflection rooms” that mimicked infinite space with thousands of LED lights and mirrors. And, David Dutuna made art digitally interactive through the use of web-based Google Glass.

Dutuna debuted his Glass-based work at Art Basel Miami in December of last year, before it traveled to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Working in partnership with app developers BrickSimple, Dutuna concealed an American flag covered with small bits of memorabilia and applied a bevy of traditional glass frame lenses on top. These tiny historical moments embedded within Portrait of America became “activated” through the use of Google Glass, triggering a highlight reel from American Civilization.   

While tech-based art began emerging in 2013, it’s taken over the art scene in a big way this year. Here are four exhibitions currently on display that show the interaction between the two disciplines and the possibilities that technology holds for future creations.

Jim Campbell: Rhythms of Perception, Museum of the Moving Image

When an artist forgoes a fine arts degree in pursuit of one in electrical engineering and mathematics from MIT, it’s almost guaranteed that technology will play a role in the works being produce. At least that’s the case for San Francisco-based artist Jim Campbell, who combines video and light with computers and custom electronics to create sculptural LED works. Over 20 of these works are on display at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens for Campbell’s first career-spanning New York museum retrospective.

One well-known work, “Exploded Views” (2011), features 2,880 seemingly random, flickering LED lights. When viewed from a particular vantage point, however, the work comes alive as various film scenes play. Other works include photographs that appear and fade away as fog covers a lens, mimicking the artist’s timed breaths for one hour, and “home movies” projected through self-created LED curtains. “Jim designs all of the circuitry for his works,” fellow tech artist Craig Dorety said of Campbell, “including the computers that run the artworks, so it’s totally custom from the ground-up—nothing off the shelf.”

Jim Campbell: Rhythms of Perception is on display at the Museum of Moving Image in Astoria until June 15.

5000 Moving Parts, MIT Museum

Don’t expect to see traditional artwork at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s campus museum. After all, it is one of the world’s leading tech and research universities. Exploring the work of six “kinetic” (works dependent on movement) artists, the exhibition 5000 Moving Parts puts motion to the test while combining art, science, history, and technology.

John Douglas Power’s large-scale sculpture “Ialu” pushes mounted sticks into graceful swaying motions through the use of a small motor, while projecting video of blue skies above them and amplifying the mechanical sounds made from the motion to create a seascape atmosphere. Arthur Ganson—in collaboration with sound artist Christina Campanella—creates a conceptual lung which mimics the meditative pace of breathing in “Machine With Breath.” And, Electro-Magnetic I, No. 13” by Greek artist Takis (the exhibition’s oldest piece, created in 1968) uses the power of magnets to levitate an orbital object.

5000 Moving Parts is on display at the MIT Museum in Cambridge, Massachusetts until November 30.

Inside Rodin’s Hands: Art, Technology, and Surgery, Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University

Stanford University, known for its medical center, is also home to a large collection of French sculptures by Auguste Rodin. Surprisingly, these two vastly different fields have collided to create the Cantor Arts Center’s most recent exhibition, Inside Rodin’s Hand: Art, Technology, and Surgery.

For years, Dr. James Chang has used the sculptural hands that Rodin created to teach undergraduate students surgical anatomy. Students study the hands to diagnose medical conditions, with the aid of technology of course. Three-dimensional scans of the sculptures are created revealing the bone, nerve and muscle structures that they would contain, even allowing virtual surgery. The exhibition that came out of Chang’s teaching process brings the classroom to the gallery space, allowing visitors to experience the unique form of education that meshes medicine, technology, and art.

“This exhibition brings together the best of Stanford with a cross-disciplinary set of contributors,” Cantor Director Connie Wolf said. “We were all inspired by Dr. Chang and his passion. Outstanding individuals from the anatomy department at the School of Medicine contributed unique, cutting-edge technology that is changing how surgery is taught throughout the world. At the Cantor, we offered our curatorial expertise, the renowned Rodin collection, and our commitment to interdisciplinary approaches to the arts. And the medical school’s Lane Library is lending important historical materials.”

Inside Rodin’s Hands: Art, Technology, and Surgery is on display at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University in California until August 3.

Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital, Museum of Arts and Design

Are you familiar with Computer Numerically Controlled marching? What about digital knitting? Surely three-dimensional printing, no? Well, you should probably learn about them now because they’re already defining our world. The most recent exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York explains how.

The works in the exhibition hit almost every category of creativity—fashion, textiles, furniture, architecture, sportswear, eveningwear, jewelry, and many more—with technology as its fundamental basis. Tamae Hirokawa’s seamless couture gowns are created through a process of whole-garment knitting—a digital procedure that ensures a perfect fit. Three-dimensional printing, a process that takes a digital model and builds it mechanically with layers (much like an ink jet printer), is displayed through the creation of Nike’s first 3-D printed shoe cleat plate.

The exhibition also allows visitors to interact with the many processes that created the works on display. The “hands-on” laboratory allows visitors to use some of the technology, including being three-dimensionally scanned and printed.

Out of Hand: Materializing the Postdigital was on display at MAD Museum in New York until June 1.