Optical illusions and the technology that creates them is an important aspect of this show. Curator, Farah Yusuf describes that, “there is a sense of wonder that I get from science and technology meeting art; which I get from knowing how it’s made or what the work is commenting about.” Omar Elkharadly’s work, Allegory (2009 – ongoing) whose title is a reference to Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, does this and more. Harkening back to the early 19thcentury stereoscope, the work presents an optical illusion while revealing its source. It is comprised of 2 slide projectors wired to a lampshade with a pull-chain that activates the projector to throw polarized light onto the lampshade which casts a stereoscopic shadow onto the wall behind. Wearing the 3D glasses provided, the viewer is able to see a 3D image of the shadow of the lampshade. Elkharadly describes the work and its inception stating that, “Initially, the work focused primarily on the mechanisms of perception by demonstrating what shouldn’t be possible – a three dimensional shadow on a two dimensional surface. What you see isn’t what you get. The mechanism by which this is achieved is almost poetically simple and is in no way concealed from the viewer.”
Credit: Omar Elkharadly, Allegory (2009, ongoing)
Lanie Chalmers plays with audience perception and notions of the gaze by changing the direction of the camera angle. I Don’t Owe You Anything (2012), is comprised of 2 separate video shots of the artist’s face. In the first view the camera is located above the artist, positioning the viewer as the dominant and in the second, the camera shot is from below, placing the viewer in a submissive position. With regards to the gaze Lanie states that, “the gaze is intended here to destabilize the subject and object of the piece (that being the viewer and the work), what I mean by that is the object (my face) establishes a position of power and agency by way of being the looker, instead of just being looked at. All of that said; my primary intention of this reversal is to position the viewer in an active role rather than that of the passive spectator. The viewer has to actively negotiate their own position in relation to the confronting images. And both images incite complicated relationships depending on each specific viewer and how they relate to a woman staring at them from above or below.” The gaze is further destabilized by the alternating images which switch sides every few minutes.
Aamna Muzzaffar’s rapid prototype sculptures, 24 Jogs are the ultimate combination between the physical body and technology. Using a smartphone training device for running and a 3D rendering application Muzzaffar pushed herself physically and mentally to test her own spontaneous creativity. The renderings created during the walking intervals of her runs were then printed in 3D and hand painted by the artist. When asked about the importance of the relationship of the body to technology, curator Farah Yusuf stated, “It’s very important I think. All of our media devices are kind of like prosthetics in a way; they all augment something that we might do naturally or that we can’t do at all. They help us to overcome the physical restraints of our body. They open up a new world to us and the body is always implicitly there. In a way, technology is there to serve us.” In the case of Muzzaffar’s work, technology serves physical goals and creative experimentation.
During her speech at the opening reception, Yusuf stated the importance of the aesthetic aspect of the new media works presented in this show. “I knew that I wanted to make a show that was pretty accessible. I find new media sometimes ghettoizes itself. It discusses things that the average viewer or even the art viewer may or may not be as interested in. I wanted an access point… When you start talking about affect and the visual, you return to the realm of the aesthetic and that aesthetic reaction to something is important to this show.” The works chosen were immediately aesthetically pleasing and successfully drew viewers into the work. Never have I experienced new media work that has been so accessible. Farah Yusuf has succeeded in making new media works attractive and engaging all viewers.