ART REVIEW: In on the Art Act, by Josef Woodard, 7/18/14

By Josef Woodard on Jul 18, 2014 in Press

Artists Draw on Engineering to Create Works Testing the Boundaries Between Digital and Physical Forces, and Invite Visitor Interaction

By Josef Woodard, News-Press Correspondent

Independent

ARTISTS DRAW ON ENGINEERING TO CREATE WORKS TESTING THE BOUNDARIES BETWEEN DIGITAL AND PHYSICAL FORCES, AND INVITE VISITOR INTERACTION
Kodama by Tim Wood
    
ARTISTS DRAW ON ENGINEERING TO CREATE WORKS TESTING THE BOUNDARIES BETWEEN DIGITAL AND PHYSICAL FORCES, AND INVITE VISITOR INTERACTION
Feedback Temperatures by Ethan Turpin
    
ARTISTS DRAW ON ENGINEERING TO CREATE WORKS TESTING THE BOUNDARIES BETWEEN DIGITAL AND PHYSICAL FORCES, AND INVITE VISITOR INTERACTION
Object Permanence 3 - Non-Dual by Marco Pinter

July 18, 2014 12:12 PM

'Ruckus'
When: through August 16
Where: Arts Fund Gallery, 205C Santa Barbara St.
Gallery hours:. Wednesday through Friday, 11 a.m. to 5p.m., Saturday 1 to 5 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 4.p.m.
Information: 965-7321, artsfundsb.org

Check your conventional art gallery decorum at the door when paying a summertime visit to the Arts Fund Gallery, where the provocative and accessible show "Ruckus" is living up to its title. What we have here is an exhibition of work reveling in moving parts, digital vs. physical forces, and, most importantly, an interactive creed that violates the dictum of not touching or otherwise mingling with the art.

Rather, "Ruckus" willfully and inherently empowers the interactive creed, through which we are free to speak into the art, affect its visual patterns through body kinetics (dance and otherwise), and sit on and make impactful breathing around, the art.

If there is a strong ergonomic ethos involved in "Ruckus," it is an emphasis on linking advances in digital technology and engineering, or "Imagineering," with science-flecked art about the human touch.

Artists here — Alan Macy, Carlos Padilla, Marco Pinter (also the show's curator), Jonathan Smith, Ethan Turpin, and Tim Wood — have, in various ways and contexts, explored technology through realms of digital video and body and movement sensor technology.

In terms of the show's artwork seeking sitters and breathers, for example, Mr. Macy's "Sensory Perception Chair Breathing" is a large cushy red chair, adorned with lavish large red feathers (such as one might find in a vintage stripper's fan dance routine). Upon lounging into the lap of cushiony comfort, we soon realize that our very breathing patterns trigger the fanning motion of the epic feather action, and our self-admiring breath-controlled action is eerily captured on a monitor in front of the sitter. Couch potato narcissism meets performance art.

Upon entering the gallery, we bump against another multi-sensory invention seemingly awaiting our participation. "The Font," a collaborative concoction by Padilla, Macy, Smith, and Turpin, is a cause-and-effectual loop of triggers, beginning with a viewer speaking or making noise into a microphone, which then creates ripples in a fancily-constructed basin of water.

Video elements kick into play, as cameras capture, beam and manipulate the ripple effect on a wall-turned-screen, conspiring toward a fluid arabesque of designs trickling with watery, surreal grace on the wall. From another angle, the piece falls into line with environmentally-apt watery imagery in this gallery space, a few Funk Zone-y blocks from the ocean.

Elsewhere in the gallery, our bodily movements are tracked and channeled into the very workings and manifestations of the art pieces. Nestled in its own enclosed and looping niche within the larger gallery space, the ever-inventive and old school/new school tweaker Mr. Turpin gives us — and invites us to help create — "Feedback Temperatures."

Moving hands and bodies within the digital video feedback loop area directly affect the nature of the work on screen, as do light conditions and temperature in the room, in a mandala/kaleidoscope shape that amplifies the hypnotic and meditative feel of the piece. Compact flashlights are also supplied, to be aimed and wriggled at and seemingly inside the art, rendering a trippy "light painting" result in how the artwork behaves.

We, the people in the gallery, are also innately acknowledged in the nature of Tim Wood's deceptively simple monitor-based piece "Kodama" (aka "free spirit"), another interactive digital/sensory convergence. What seems disconnected and abstract takes on a parallel dimensional meaning when we recognize that the imagery morphing and crystallizing onscreen is taking into account the bodies and motions in the space.

We, in fact, are bit players in the abstracted sci-fi, infrared cyborg picture play. No model release forms necessary.

One of the more sensuous techno-organic creations in the show is Mr. Pinter's "Object Permanence: Non-Dual," another video/screen-based riddle with a notably and strangely graceful schematic and interactive visual design. Mr. Pinter, who has worked with live video elements and robotics in his experimental and artistic pursuits, here presents a motion-sensed dance of elements, from the monochromatic, Jean Arp-y amorphous blobs oozing across three screens, and, in contrast, the purely physical aspect of antler-like objects in motion. As the artist explains in his comments, this work, like others in his ongoing series, seeks to "exploit the perceptual effect of object permanence," and the lack thereof.

Like the other pieces in the unusually engaging art experience that is "Ruckus," this specific perceptual and digitally-machinating puzzle leaves we, the viewer, with an odd sense of direct involvement in the art before and somehow within us. We have been upgraded, beyond the realm of the passive beholder.