Computer-Based Art Radiates Grounded Ideas

Article excerpt

ALL DIGITAL

MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART CLEVELAND

CLEVELAND, OHIO

JANUARY 20-MAY 7, 2006

On view through May 7, 2006, the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA) presents "All Digital," a sophisticated, engaging, and diverse group of fifteen computer-based works by eight artists, ranging from Charles Sandison's large-scale Index (2006), which immerses viewers in projected text, to Lynn Hershman Leeson's interactive work DiNA (2005-2006), which incorporates speech recognition and synthesis. Margo Crutchfield, the exhibition's organizer and senior curator at MOCA writes, "I wanted to present pioneering work, work that is pushing the frontiers of what we have customarily considered works of art to be. Works that dealt with artificial intelligence, and works that bridge the 'real' and 'virtual' world." (1)

Entering the exhibition space, the viewer first encounters a large-scale projected piece entitled Stack #1 (2005) by John F. Simon Jr. Many of his works in the show, however, are more intimate time-based pieces that are framed and mounted on the wall. His work sometimes resembles and/or references works by Paul Klee and Piet Mondrian. Instead of using paint on canvas, Simon writes computer code, and the outcome is presented on either an LCD screen or projected on the wall. Simon states, "I write software to create and observe systems. Software art is not like video, film, or computer animation where the image sequences are recorded. The images displayed by my software are created as they are viewed. Instead of displaying a reproduction of a scene, software is the scene, which evolves and never repeats." (2) His software generates vibrant colors, shapes, patterns, and forms that are constantly changing. Simon's ComplexCity (2000) which pays homage to Mondrian's famous painting Broadway Boogie Woogie (1942-43), is an abstracted cityscape that utilizes a quilt-like interface to present views of the city--from skyscrapers to a bird's-eye view of the hustle and bustle of urban traffic. Every four minutes the piece cycles from day to night, capturing an ever-changing city that never sleeps. While these elements of city life are very stylized--traffic is depicted as a collection of colorful cubes that travel within a maze-like grid--Simon has not forgotten attention to detail. For example, as one studies the skyscrapers in the upper part of the composition, one may notice the birds flying among the buildings.

Simon has recently begun exploring large-scale projections. A recent work entitled Fountain (2004) is software art that projects an 8 x 10 foot diptych. He writes that it is "an evolving visual metaphor for the creative process. Patterns assembling themselves above an ever-changing vortex of color symbolize thoughts arising from the human mind." (3) Even though this was not the first time that Fountain was shown, it was the first time that it was projected. In an e-mail conversation with this author, Simon stated,

  The large projection of Fountain was an attempt to more deeply involve
  the viewer in the three-dimensional space that makes up the Fountain
  world. Fountain has always been shown on large monitors, so during a
  discussion about the MOCA Cleveland space, Margo Crutchfield and I
  explored the idea of showing it even larger ... I wanted to see if
  there was a sense of an immersive experience as the Fountain
  transitioned. I spent two days in Cleveland watching it run on this
  large scale, and it was very exciting. (4)

Within the same room is Life Writer (2006) by Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau, which was commissioned especially for the exhibition. The installation consists of an old-style typewriter on top of an antique table with a chair for the participant to sit down and type. Instead of the typewriter generating words or letters, it generates insect-like shadows that are cast on a special light-sensitive screen attached to the typewriter that looks much like vellum. …