An original and quirky exhibition, Crossing Wires: Technology and Play, on view at the Evanston Art Center through April 15 includes nine works by ten artists who explore themes of technology, and play. A few decades ago, my husband’s grandfather, a high school shop teacher, would repurpose scraps he found in the workshop to make beautiful lamps, candlesticks, and ashtrays. Fondly known as “archibles (pronounced “ark-uh-buls”),” the hybrids speak of a generation that was thrifty, handy, and creative. This DIY sensibility, or as the exhibition brochure puts it, “crunchy nostalgia,” is part of the charm of Crossed Wires.
The waste not/want not spirit is seen in a collaborative piece by Dan Silverstein and Dave Tolchinsky, Apple/apple (Beta). It poses the question of what would an I-Pod look like if it were invented fifty years ago? The answer is a cumbersome and imposing contraption that combines a phonograph and antiquated “headphones,” which is actually a “beauty shop” hair dryer. The 7-inch, vinyl record plays spoken text that waxes on the endless associations with apples, from Adam and Eve to Steve Jobs. Undermining the sleek design, smooth surfaces, and small scale of the portable musical device, which combines functionality and aesthetics, Apple/apple (Beta) exists in a room, bulky and porous like a welcoming piece of furniture.
The ubiquity of technology and the reminder that it has overtaken our lives is visible in the perpetual Twitter feeds that are printed out and piling up in the grand installation, Murmur Studies, by Christopher Baker. Consisting of a series of thermal printers programmed to pick up emotional signifiers that come across on Twitter feeds and print them out in ticker-tape fashion, the notifications become like an unstoppable organism that will continue to grow throughout the run of the exhibition. The piece serves as a kind of clearing station for random ideas and evidence of the accumulation of personal expression out there in the world, while the work itself documents and archives these ephemeral emotional expressions.
While technological “advances” usually diminish in size, some works in the show are generously proportioned, taking up a good part of a room, or the entire room, as is the case with Chaz Evans’s Evans Dances Baldessari Sings Lewitt, a life-size video and performance, using interactive software. Offering brief selections of 35 dances based on John Baldessari’s song of Sol Lewitts’s 35 Sentences on Conceptual Art, the viewer participates by selecting a dance for a short, usually amusing, performance. It is entertaining and clever, and pokes fun at some of the seriousness in the art world.
A charming reminder that we should treasure our time with loved ones comes through in an arrangement of wall clocks, Relative Friend, by Ozge Samanci. This piece comments on the relativity of the passage of time. As a viewer approaches, the dials on the clocks spin faster and faster, the animation of time is at once a friendly hello and panic-inducing signal that time flies when we are having fun.
The exhibition also includes clever works by France Cadet, Christopher Furman, Tiffany Holmes, Joseph Kohnke, and an intimidating installation of technological debris by Toby Zallman. Thoughtfully curated by Barbara Blades and Debra Tolchinsky, this playfully subversive technology is good, old-fashioned fun.
by Corinne Granof
February 19–April 15, 2012
Evanston Art Center, Illinois