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A.I.: Artistic Intelligence 

Ten visual artists explore the connection between real life and the virtual world

Wednesday, Jun 27 2001
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SFMOMA's digital art exhibition "010101" may offer an inkling of what high-profile artists will create given a wad of cash and the techie means, but New Langton Arts' "LifeLike" ups the ante. The exhibition brings together 10 visual artists to ponder the connection between life and what increasingly passes for such in a world edging into the virtual. As robotics, biotechnology, and advances in computer science blur the natural and the artificial, "LifeLike"'s artists weigh in on the cultural impact of such "progress."

Some of the work uses low-tech methods or materials to make highbrow points. Reuben Lorch-Miller's Falls riffs on the graphic artist's unequaled ability to manipulate natural images. To create the piece, Lorch-Miller ripped a photo of a waterfall from the Internet, blew it up, and animated it using the lo-fi technology of yesteryear's Olympia beer signs. Philip Ross' Pure Culture skewers the human need to shape nature through biotechnology, presenting a living sculpture of cloned fungi trained to grow into architectural forms.

Other pieces make you think. John Slepian's tandem video installation Incommunicate offers two fleshy, misshapen potatolike beings with mouths, attempting to speak to one another in sounds manipulated from human infant babble. Perhaps more confounding is Eliot Anderson's What's a Tortoise? -- inspired by the disconcerting opening scene from Blade Runner -- which gives viewers a chance to sympathize with the artificial by watching an inverted robotic tortoise painfully toast beneath a heat lamp. And in a region that artists flee due to pressures created by technology, Gail Wight's whimsical Star Struck may probe deepest. She depicts a toy robot sobbing as it watches Fritz Lang's Metropolis, perhaps posing tomorrow's definitive question: What becomes of art when only the robots remain to view it? -- Todd Dayton

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Todd Dayton

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