In the recent Double Take: Anne Landa exhibition at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, there were a number of works which caught the imagination of humanists and technologists alike.
Mari Velonaki’s interactive cube installations are a particular wonder of light and movement. These little robotics react to the viewer’s touch: as you pick them up and move them around they ‘speak’ to each other by emitting sounds and slowly revealling handwriting across their lighted faces. Entitled ‘Circle D: Fragile Balances’ 2008, each of these mysterious messages was comprised of fragments from personal letters donated by Velonaki’s peers and friends, along with verse by Anna Akhmatova. Each of the cubes has a name, Bird and Fish, construsting characters in a relationship that is both loving and strained. Using bluetooth wireless connections, the spatial relation that Bird and Fish have to one another at any one time determines their ‘communication’ and thus their expression of emotion. The viewer (or perhaps user is a more appropriate term) is able to have some control over this relationship, and increasingly so, as Velonaki invites suggestions for future letters to be included in the work’s futher development. The comment here on our relationships, and our lives within the technological age, achieve both contemporaniety and timelessness. In this version however, the slowness of the media perhaps hampers the full realisation of the concept, I eagerly await Velonaki’s next instalment on the project.
The following is a video of Velonaki speaking about the project as it has developed since working with the curator’s at the Art Gallery of NSW:
Click here to see an student interview with Mari Velonaki.
Cao Fei’s film ‘What Are They Doing Here?’ 2005 uses perhaps a more traditional form of mediabut is not less touching in its ability to reach both the personal and the universal. As a commission of the Siemens Arts Program, Fei chose to intervene directly in Siemens’ OSRAM lighting factory in Foshan, Guangdong province. She entered the factory and encouraged the employees there to express their dreams, fantasies, and desires in the form of dance, song and performance. Her resulting film is separated into three parts, drawing out the reality of present day life in the factory, in contrast to dreams and hopes of the future. Fei’s greatest skill is in her ability to capture the monotony of manual labour in the same frames as lie her highly detailed and empathetic portraits of the workers. She has intimately brought both everyday experience and psychological reality to the screen.
The Double Take exhibition featured a number of artists, more that I have noted here. Check out the Art Gallery’s archived page for Double Take here.