On my ‘to do’ list before I left the UK and returned back to work in Tokyo was to go and check-out the Electronic Superhighway exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery held in London. As the exhibition was on the low residency schedule, it wasn’t surprising to see the exhibition featured quite prominently on blogs during February & March. The reviews being both positive and negative.
As I entered the exhibition, my pre-conception was just as I had expected (i.e. an assortment of flashing, noisy monitors, indescribable electronic objects, videos being played in small rooms, selfie imagery, video games, a few installations and discarded keyboards and monitors in dilapidated states. Is this really going to be my cup of tea? , I thought. Stay positive. Also, it’s important to note, other than viewing the art, I intended to pay close attention as to ‘how’ the artists had audienced their work. It’s an area that has been increasingly playing on my mind for some time now. Ever since the question was raised by a member of the panel in one of those UAL discussions Jonathan had posted us last year. Funny how something small can stay inside the mind but isn’t easily forgotten. Possibly as I had made notes on audiencing when attending the Camberwell student exhibition last July. I aim to comment more about audiencing in future posts.
Anyway, here’s my twopence worth on a few notable pieces:
As the exhibits didn’t seem to be in any chronological order, I began to make notes from the dark ages (i.e. 1960s when I was born!!) to the present day. One or two pieces from this period really caught my eye. The work of Swedish artist, Ulla Wiggen for one, especially her series of paintings in the 1960s where she has explored the inside of analogue devices. Pop art being the theme at that time and these paintings bared all the hallmarks. Also, it was interesting to note that Wiggen was a psychotherapist. You can see the cognitive process going on in her abstractions.
As we are consumed by the ‘self’ on social image, it wasn’t a great surprise to find artwork which referenced this aspect of social media. Douglas Coupland (Deep Face, 2015) has cleverly ‘arranged’ an engaging composition of which he uses four large scale, monochromatic, faceless, I.D. postured portraits. Each portrait have Mondrian geometric patterns as an overlay to cover identity. He makes a deliberate comment on facial recognition software. I found this piece very engaging though I’m not sure about the Mondrian graphics.
I was very curious about Lynn Hershman Leeson’s Lorna (1979-1982) as it was kind of different from the other work. Ok, the installation did involve a monitor but for me the artwork was memorable due to the psychological narrative which documents the life of an agoraphobic woman, Lorna. Once inside this lonely yet warm interior, you could interact physically; use the remote to watch scenes of her life. The viewer is invited into her story. Eccentric/menacing characteristics: She hasn’t left the house in four years and carries a gun. A piece of work that explores image culture and identity via a machine as far back as the late 70s. I was impressed!
A few years ago I bought a T-shirt with an image of Janet Leigh screaming (image from Psycho). I was drawn towards the ASCII style of the image. At the time I had no idea that the image was created by a recognized artist. But why didn’t I consider the artist? Prior to this course, I didn’t really pay much attention to artists who manipulated technology in their work. You could say I’m opening my eyes more now. I’m a bit more informed with Vuc Cosic’s work too. At the exhibition I came across more of his artwork. ASCII History of moving images (1998). Again he uses ASCII (American Standard Code for Information Interchange) characters which transform the visuals. A lot of his work borrows iconic work. In this case, he uses iconic imagery from films such as Taxi Driver, Casablanca and Ben Hur.
Another obvious piece that you knew would come across at some point was a comment on surveillance. In the wake of Tim Berners-Lee’ s HTML in 1990 which triggered World Wide Web.Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s Surface Tension (1992) gives a nod to Orwell’s 1984. This work made me consider scale deeply. It was a key factor for this piece of work to become memorable. Apparently, this interactive installation was in fact the first eye which is able to follow the viewer around. However, I wasn’t aware of that fact when viewing.