Exhibit Looks at What Comes after Technology's Dazzle

By Shaw, Kurt | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, January 11, 2009 | Go to article overview

Exhibit Looks at What Comes after Technology's Dazzle


Shaw, Kurt, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


From films filled with dazzling special effects to the wonders on our own personal computers, we are fascinated, and oftentimes overwhelmed, with new technology. But all that is shiny, bright and new isn't perfect. That's the message behind "PREDRIVE: After Technology," the latest exhibit to open at the Mattress Factory on the North Side.

Organized by Carnegie Mellon University assistant professor of art Melissa Ragona, the exhibit explores themes of digital effects and dysfunctions, ready-made cyber-kitsch, software aesthetics and the "performativity" of digital environments in real space, Ragona says.

"A lot of new technology, especially programming, has promised to really change the face of contemporary art, deliver new interfaces, new ways of thinking about objects," Ragona says. "It's like we don't really need an object anymore, we can just have an idea."

Suspicious of any kind of technological sublime, Ragona says that with this exhibit she aimed to expose contemporary art's "fetishization" of new technologies. That is, the impulse to give digital art a mystical authority.

"Under the conditions of technology -- ideas of attention, memory and consciousness have been thought to transform or extend themselves through mechanical, electronic or digital portals," Ragona says. "It's gorgeous, and it's dazzling, but it doesn't really bring us anywhere, artwise, So, I was interested in working with artists who were critiquing or satirizing this. Using new technology in a smart, less grandiose, and less totalizing way."

She chose six international artists -- Takeshi Murata, Brody Condon, Jacob and Jessica Ciocci (of Paper Rad), Gretchen Skogerson and Antoine Catala -- who each interrogate the "aesthetics of immediacy" produced by new technologies in contemporary art. All six artists, in some form, explore the barrage of mediated materials presented to us as they are filtered through a host of both old and new technologies.

In the first installation visitors will come to, the Pittsburgh- based artists collective Paper Rad, which also includes Ben Jones, synthesize popular material from television, comics, video games and advertising, allowing these materials to contextualize and cross- reference each other.

The room is filled with various thrift store finds like old VHS tapes, kept in their boxes and simply stacked in a corner, a slightly ripped, old Magic Eye poster and a tin of loose pocket change. Paper Rad presents half a dozen computer animated videos on old TV sets and new monitors which have been slightly altered with a hammer.

Regarding the animations, which offer a constant barrage of colorful imagery, Jacob Ciocci says, "There is a proliferation, even a saturation of lo-res imagery right now on the Internet. So we experience everything as lo-res, in isolated moments."

"What Paper Rad does well is directly related to the process for this exhibition -- sifting through piles of 'junk experience' in order to find the gold," Ragona says.

"We try to do this in a way that still retains the 'junk' quality of the gems," Ciocci adds, "but, at the same time, are careful not to make something precious, just because we found it on the street or in a thrift store or on a Web site. …

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