By Maddie Orton
So much of our lives is electronics-based, it’s easy to take that TV, light or computer for granted. Rowan University Art Gallery’s Simulate-Permeate exhibition elevates everyday technology from supporting player to star, showing tech-based art.
Mat Tomezsko guest-curated the show. “It’s not about this preciousness because it can be replicated a million times,” he says. “It really becomes about how the viewer interacts with it. That’s really the focus of it.”
Artists in the show are interested in how people respond to technology, and in many cases, how we can program technology to respond to us.
Chris Vecchio is an electrical engineer by day. He’s interested in electronics as an aesthetic medium. “For these pieces right here, I’m literally exposing the electronics — trying to do away with the case, do away even with the circuit board, and let the electronics sort of sprawl and climb like an organic vine or something,” he says.
Vecchio sees technology as magical. And he’s in good company.
“You don’t know what’s inside. You don’t know how it works.” Of his art installation, Cube, he explains: “It’s an ambiguous user interface.”
Between a Mirror and a Memory was created by Bevan Weissman and his colleagues at the New American Public Art collective. “We really wanted to explore…how sometimes we can see ourselves as other people if the circumstances are right,” Weissman says.
A video feed takes footage of unsuspecting viewers and then a monitor shows it back to them — on a 10-second delay.
“Normally when we see ourselves, we’re looking at a mirror, we’re looking at our Facebook photos, we’re looking at all these images of us which have been collected and static, but we don’t get to see ourselves in the flesh as another person,” explains Weissman. “And the video that we’ve created is delayed long enough, so that it lets you see yourself as an other.”
It’s these kinds of techy possibilities that have artist Jody Sweitzer excited. Her video art piece, called Pledge, plays the Pledge of Allegiance in its various iterations, spliced with iconic American images. With the help of a collaborator, the video changes when someone walks by a motion detector.
“He said that he could actually write a software program for me that would cue up the videos,” Sweitzer says. “They initiate the conversation. I’m just basically creating the fodder.”
That’s part of what Gallery Director Mary Salvante loves about this tech-based contemporary art — the participation factor. “The viewer now is in control of what kind of experience they have,” says Salvante.
And from all the literal bells and whistles going off in what might otherwise be a quiet gallery, that experience sounds like an engaging one.