Six women artists reveal themselves in digital media
Wood Street Galleries, Downtown
Through March 6 2004
BY ALICE WINN
The digital world can be a space into which we project bodily desires or rational plans, or it can be a realm where infinite combinations of imagery play freely. As electronic arts interact with the senses in increasingly inclusive ways, human experience is being extended further into the domain of media. Here, artists may imagine topographies of relations that transgress those of the physical world. Yet technology, old or new, always has to do with the earthbound body and thus with gender. At Wood Street Galleries, six female artists imagine and articulate the subversive alliance between woman and machine. allure electronica, their show of installations and photographs informed by digital media, feels extremely fluid. It reveals them as aware of but indifferent to masculine principles of order, seeking a connection between the feminine and the digital where both become something else in the process.
Andrea Ackerman's Rose Breathing is part of a series of synthetic landscapes created from computer-manipulated video images. Ackerman uses the floral symbol of female freshness and freedom to present a moving, visual archaeology of a single bodily gesture. Inhaling and exhaling in a layered series of complex sounds and sights, her immense, translucent flower creates a dynamic interface between exterior and interior. Its perfect exhibition of physiological rhythm metaphorically demonstrates that perceiving experience as aesthetic requires an understanding of the harmonic relations between the self and its environment.
Modern sociologists have come to argue that society no longer exists. We live instead within networks, with economies, populations and cultures as nodal points of a global process of endless flows. The secure categories of the traditional world also appear to be in flux within Lillian Ball's video projections of active water over cast, mirrored glass. This potent symbol of fluidity, clarity and power here parallels the flow of thought, of life, of time, of electrical signals, while also becoming a metaphor for bodily experience. In Boiling Point, moving images of the slowly bubbling liquid provoke spontaneous, contradictory responses of contemplation and tension. At the edge of its liberation into air, the transitional substance here transcends the rigidities and vulnerability of contained objects. Floating Worlds references the Buddhist concept of the fleeting nature of earthly existence. Ball sets her illusionary realms in the midst of the fugitive and infinite spiraling of water down three kitchen sink drains. In these sanctuaries of artifice and futility, the sounds of incessantly moving water make a space for impotent triumph. Yet the work also suggests the fluidity of the imaginary and its refusal to be subsumed in a fixed and closed symbolic realm.
Nancy Dwyer explores the most interactive thing of all -- language. She mixes messages from analog and digital worlds to create another logic for this one. Her work is a subtle evocation of the way language orders our bodies and minds, where orders has the double meaning of enforcement and sense. Pieces are full of hints and suggestions that register and disappear, generating their own narratives that still seem somehow concrete. One must search for subliminal clues in the spaces between an arrangement of pixel-like, painted, sculptural balls in order to find the hidden phrase Selfish Idiot. Each installation holds another belief made transparent and mirage-like. These incoherent insights at the edge of consciousness stand as signs of what cannot be repressed or alienated.
Julia Heyward's interactive video projection Miracles in Reverse presents over 75 scenes with multiple characters and paths that viewers can follow. The work consists of loops that allow visitors to manipulate vividly staged incidents from the artist's life at varying speeds and in differing directions. Participants may use the aesthetics of the piece's interface to frustrate memory and play with sensory and emotional responses. Traveling with Heyward along her flights of mind and associative connections, we are derailed and thrown back and forth across time. The work thereby constructs a cyclical narrative that opposes a stifling linear time frame.
This alternating temporal structure reconstructs the past as a force that affects present life. The cycle is not simply a set track on which a determined course of events will forever circle like a broken record. Instead it unwinds a film that resists closure, because, like organic forms, it forever defies the laws of a logic that could stabilize it. Viewers wander over the story lines with a mouse as with a virtual hand. Clicking the button shifts the images along, revealing fragments of personal diaries. By allowing users to choose the viewpoint, a single story space can turn into myriad experiences, each one tailored to the preferences of an individual. This selection process allows viewers to gain access to characters' thoughts and to use them as a contextual lens for interpreting events in the story. Moreover, the notion of multiple viewpoints reflects our increasingly global society that keeps us constantly aware of the many different cultures and perspectives on life. In one scene we watch flames flicker into doves as if we're enrapt in a collective dream that has formed our common understanding of what is possible and our fantasies of what we wish were.