a community exhibition exploring the intersection of the body and technology
The Circuits: A Community Exhibition Exploring the Intersection of the Body and Technology exhibition, of which I conceived and curated, took place from April 14th to April 22nd, 2017. The exhibition, under the theme of the body and technology, included works by artists from Connecticut College, Lyme Art Academy, The Williams School, and the broader New London Community. The intent of the exhibition was to bring these diverse communities together through the thematic concepts. These sub-themes explored technology as a tool in which images of the body can be altered, the hybridization of machine and human form, and the post-digital disenchantment with “new” media.
Circuits externalizes the active yet often invisible infrastructure that connects technology with the human body: empowering our abilities while simultaneously shaping our perceptions. This relationship combines the essence of techne—the use of the machinery and equipment developed from the application of knowledge to create art—with an understanding of the body as a complex biological system synthesizing perception, impulses, reflection, and self-expression. The Circuits exhibition at the Marquee Gallery in New London, Connecticut, explores the connections between the body and technology on three levels: within the individual artworks, across the artwork in the exhibition, and throughout the community of artists.
The artists featured in this exhibition represent a creative community, New London, a city that is home to a diversity of races, ethnicities, and socioeconomic statuses. As a Connecticut College student, I believe the connection between the campus community and the artists living in the New London area can be strengthened. The intent of this exhibition is to bring these diverse communities together through the thematic concepts that frame this project. These themes explore technology as a tool in which images of the body can be altered, the hybridization of machine and human form, and the post-digital disenchantment with “new” media. The artists in this exhibition grapple with complex concepts of technology and the human body that impact us all at both the global and individual level.
Many of the works in this exhibition re-present the body through media and various digital tools. PTSD, a large format digital print, by Jillian Yuan, portrays a blurred image of a saluting soldier through the use of complex layering of transparent colored letterforms. At a distance, the representation of the figure is recognizable. As the viewer moves closer to the work, the individual letterforms become visible. Each layer in this work is a different letter comprising the acronym, PTSD. Yuan works to visualize the psychological changes of a soldier’s mental state after experiencing a traumatic event. When experiencing a mental disorder, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, one’s concept of self is blurred, which is visually expressed through the dense layering of letterforms in PTSD. Technology aids artists in representing how our sense of self and bodies alter.
While Yuan examines how technology is a tool with which she can represent alterations to the human form and psyche, other works in this exhibition use the combined natures of technology and the body as a biological system. The cyborg, as defined by Donna Haraway in her Cyborg Manifesto, “... is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism, a creature of social reality as well as a creature of fiction”. The cyborg is not only reserved for science-fiction, it encompasses various ways the organic biological human form and the technological machine intersect. A.I.: All-Inclusive, Orga vs. Mecha, a collaborative sound art composition created by Jeremiah Selvey, Wendy Moy, and Jerome Kurtenbach. This work was performed by the Chorosynthesis Singers. The work presents a film score-style with experimental textual voices creating a compositional hybrid of organic and structural sound. The text, "Welcome orga into mecha!", calls for both a uniting of the mechanical and organic worlds and an “all-inclusive” metaphorical body, such as the cyborg. The concept of the cyborg is not only a complex avenue in which these artists have explored their creative works, it is also a question of the future trajectory of the human body.
Unlike the works that utilize new media or digital technology, the post-digital movement veers away, reviving analog media both through their use in the art making process as well as their representation in the artworks themselves. Antiquated Irrelevance, a series of digital photographs by Eli Griswold, depicts a man utilizing a different “antiquated” technology (a standard corded telephone, a record player, a hanging light bulb, a film camera, a typewriter, and a vintage blow dryer) in each portrait. Contradicting the title, Griswold’s work visualizes the obvious renewed interest in older media. Both Annika Tucksmith and Diego Espaillat use old machines to create their multi media installations, This Show is Always On and Litterbug respectively. In her work, This Show is Always On, Tucksmith painted a delicate sheep directly onto a vintage television and placed two empty beer cans on either ends of the screen. Espaillat, for his work, Litterbug, created an Ultracal mold of a computer, attached plastic wheels, placed moss and discarded cigarette packages inside the mold, and hung a functioning light bulb from inside the mold. These works are three-dimensional, tangible, and clearly show the artist’s hand in the art making process. Tucksmith, Espaillat, and the artists in this post-digital movement increase the involvement of the human hand by incorporating traditional modes of art making, such as hand painting and molding. The post-digital movement questions the relationship between the maker and the made and the physical separation between the artist and their art.
Although technology has been thought of as separating us from each other, this exhibition seeks to directly contradict this common conception by utilizing technology and art to foster a stronger and closer community. Art-making is a mutually beneficial process. Communities prosper through diversity of thought and artists prosper by having a voice and agency. My hope is that this exhibition will connect our disjointed communities through art and creative explorations to make them more resilient and empowered.
This exhibition and project is the culmination of my senior integrative project for the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology Certificate Program at Connecticut College. I am a Psychology major and Art minor with a concentration in Design. Although I have been a gallery assistant in the Cummings Arts Center Galleries at Connecticut College and the Ober Gallery in Kent, Connecticut, this is my first experience conceiving, curating and installing an exhibition from start to finish. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to a group of individuals and organizations without which this project would not have been possible: Clint Slowik and the Slowik Family of the Marquee Gallery; Professor Denise Pelletier, Debbie Krusewski and the Connecticut College Art Department; the Connecticut College SGA, the Connecticut College Office of Student Engagement, the Connecticut College Print Shop, Hannah Gant and Casey Moran of Spark Makerspace, and Greg Bowerman and Tekla Zweir of The Williams School. I would also like to thank Libby Friedman and Professor Ross Morin of the Ammerman Center for Arts and Technology and my advisor and the Director of the Ammerman Center, Professor Andrea Wollensak for being with me every step of the way. Finally, I would like to thank my family and friends for providing me with the supportive environment in which my creativity could be cultivated.