We are a generation dominated by technology. Most of us probably can’t imagine what it must be like to go through a day without our smart phones, laptops, or tablets. We connect with each other through digital platforms like Facebook, Tumblr or other sharing sites. Friend and follower counts have replaced the high school need to “fit-in” to a crowd. Our conversation starters occur in the form of tweets or Instagram shots, and “likes” are our way of keeping in touch. Our connection to the digital has never been as apparent as it is in this very moment.
“Image Objects”, organized by the Public Art Fund, delves into the concept of life in our digital world and life in our real world. The group art exhibition examines our link to the digital, with varied pieces that link back to our tech-obsessed mind. Artist Amanda Ross-Ho’s “The Character and Shape of Illuminated Things (Facial Recognition)” is explicit in this consideration. Her sculpture, which brings to mind facial recognition software that is widely available on many a digital camera and smart phone, blurs the lines between digital and real. It forces us into a conundrum we now have to confront: If something digital comes into the real world, is it still digital? Where do we draw the line, whether on our laptops or on our sidewalks, separating the two worlds?
The other artists featured in the exhibit likewise exacerbate this question. Artist Jon Rafman’s marble work was theorized and conceived on the computer, before being extracted from its virtual world and gaining life in reality. And a quirky piece from artist Lothar Hempel further demands that we question our tether to our digital rulers. “Frozen” depicts the color-wheel known and loathed by Mac users as an ominous signal that you are going to be waiting for a very long time. Works from Alice Channer, Artie Vierkant, Hank Willis Thomas and the aptly titled “Monument to Exaptation” from Timur Si-Qin give body to the exhibit’s concept and invite you to observe things in a different way.
The exhibit creates an almost ironic dialogue in its availability – with the works located in a public park on display as art, they will be subject to many an Instagram and Tumblr post, becoming, to some, nothing more than a photo-op, and so being sewn into the very garment that they called to scrutinize.