REVIEW: “Distinguishable From Magic” The New Virtual Exhibition From The SciArt Center

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See this published on SciArt in America February 9, 2016

Similarly to SciArt in America, their sister organization–SciArt Center—aims to provide support and promote cross-disciplinary approaches and interactions between the arts and sciences. SciArt Center is membership based and is both an online platform and a pop-up events organization (events are open to the public). With over 200 members worldwide, Virtual Exhibitions are a keystone of the organization’s promotion of its members cross disciplinary work. Virtual Exhibitions include Un-Natural Nature, The New Unconscious, and now Distinguishable From Magic—SciArt Center’s newest exhibition.

Curated by SciArt Center Curator Marnie Benney, Distinguishable From Magic features 12 member’s work including Amber Anderson, Linda Behar, Jared Vaughan Davis, Greg Dunn, Cedric Van Eenoo, Anna Fine Foer, Richelle Gribble, Constance Halporn, Alinta Krauth, Robert Krawczyk, Sam Talbot-Kelly, and Leila Christine Nadir.

The title is inspired by British science-fiction author Arthur C. Clarke (1917-2008), most notably famous for co-writing the screenplay for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. His science fiction works often included chapters about aspects of science and technology aside from fantastical space travel such as computers, telecommunication satellites, and bioengineering.

His predilection for prophecy culminated in his book “Profiles of the Future” (1962) which included what now are referred to as Clarke’s three laws:

Clarke’s first law
When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.

Clarke’s second law
The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

Clarke’s third law
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

Clarke playfully equates the advancement of technology with supernatural forces, those that are unexplainable to the layman and better understood by the sorcerer. The smoke and mirrors of technology will bewilder our wildest dreams just as much as it inundates our subconscious fears.

The 1960s may have been a time of technological mysticism, but as the new millennia hit the enchantment of technology became so mundane that it literally sits in the palm of our hand as we text, tweet and post about our everyday lives with the click of a virtual button. The mysticism of science fiction’s past continually diminishes as technology progresses forward. If our reality continues to converge with the foretelling’s of sci-fi, where does present day begin and the narratives of science fiction end?

Benney posed this question to artists for this exhibition:

​“The genre of science fiction has long addressed the question of what it is to be human in the face of advancing technology, but many aspects of this question are no longer limited to science fiction as they quickly become science and technology fact. Technology is changing human relationships with others and to one’s self, on both an emotional and functional level…. What would it mean about us if a machine felt our same emotions, as seen in movies like “Her” and “Ex Machina”? We are left to question our species’ social and biological evolution with the dominance of social interactions taking place through online platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat.”

The show exhibits many different media including photography, prints, digital collage, ink on paper, video, drawing, watercolor, and installation. An artist statement pairs with images of the exhibited work to elaborate on each individual’s process and inspiration from the curatorial statement.

Online platforms are a staple in everyday lives. As lives unfurl online for the world to see, lines continually blur between personal and public. Amber Anderson’s series Free To Go Home takes screenshots of Craiglist ads to explore how the personal is continually crashing into the public as people sell items and disclose home addresses to complete strangers.

The Simulacra of the internet age bombards vision with so much visual stimuli that simplicity is continually replaced with vast repetition. Cedric Van Eenoo explores the Japanese concept of Ma in a series of Chinese ink prints on rice paper as a dichotomy to the hyper-imagery of the online world. Ma describes the gap, empty space or pause between two forms that allows for intensification of vision. His 9 greyscale prints are soothing in their abstract simplicity, creating a nice vacation from an otherwise icon driven world.

Viewing the many media and inspiration behind the different works truly represents the profound multiplicity of technology’s affect on contemporary society. As technology marches forward and we continue to embrace its every move, the intersection between the arts and sciences will continue to grow in order to examine the complexities of society’s convergence with scientific advancement.

Have SciArt event tips you want covered? Want your artwork featured on the SAiA blog? Get in touch with the blog editor Danielle Kalamaras on Twitter

 

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One comment

  1. shellseeker0913 · February 19, 2016

    Hi Danielle, your description of the exhibition is intriguing. The dilemma of the human/machine person can only be answered perhaps as you perceived – in the realm of the supernatural. What does it really mean to be human? One day it may be that only God can sort us out.

    By the way I enjoy your writings about the exhibitions in New York City. I was able to go on an art tour there in June of 2014 – loved the Met, the MoMa, the Frick et al but I am more of a contemporary art kind of viewer/creator. The Vancouver Art Gallery has an opening of a new show tonight: Mashup: the Birth of Modern Culture
    https://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca/the_exhibitions/current_exhibitions.html

    In a way it is art and science – humanity and psychology/sociology. Wish you were here to write about it.
    Blessings to you in your life and art, Deborah Stephan.

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