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OnReview - N.E.A.T. at CJM

The Convergence of Art and Technology at Contemporary Jewish Museum

by Jeremy Joven
Published December 10, 2015

To say that the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibit “NEAT: New Experiments in Art & Technology” is Neat for “pun” would be a gross devaluation of this fantastic exhibition.

Almost 50 years after the seminal 1960s Experiments in Art and Technology set out to break down barriers between artists and scientists through a collaboration between artists and tech companies, the CJM along with chief curator Renny Pritikin with the consultation of Paolo Salvagione and 9 inspiring artists (3 of which are in their 20s, 40s and 60s) presents a revision of the evolution in the intersection of Arts & Technology.

It’s tough to relate such a visually dynamic and aural show in words or just photos so we’re including a video clip here.

Paolo Salvagione - Rope Fountain. Photo by Johnna Arnold.
Photo by Johnna Arnold (Courtesy of CJM)

At the start of the exhibition space you are welcomed by Paolo Salvagione’s Rope Fountain. Mimicking water movements with the random flux of stiffly controlled rope, fed through a 3D printed housing with gears and machinery… the piece tantalizes just as a real water fountain would, if not more! The fluidity of its action is utterly mind-boggling. It’s a sculptural masterpiece with its unpredictable movements while entirely mechanical, it relays a feeling of something organic.

Scott Snibbe’s pieces displays finesse in combining digital artwork with music and viewer interaction. Though in today’s burgeoning artistic and “high designed” app world, this type of aural and tangible digital experience is already in the palm of our hands… So in a museum exhibit it may not be as captivating although knowing that Scott is one of the pioneers in this field it all starts to makes sense.

Camille Utterback. Photo by Johnna Arnold.
Photo by Johnna Arnold (Courtesy of CJM)

Camille Utterback’s interactive video projection that tracks movement of viewers is a beautiful tapestry of lights and movement that I could see covering our walls in the future as living, moving interactive art one day. Not just in museums!

Alan Rath uses Rom Tech with his works that is more robotic than the rest of the show with just as much beauty. It’s hard to appreciate fully when the viewer doesn’t know anything about coding… like a person who cannot draw who cannot appreciate Renoir’s brushstrokes.

NEAT exhibit is so exciting you could spend hours studying, questioning, and exploring through every room and every display. The algorithm based nature of most of the works presents a different and possibly once in a lifetime view of each at present time and every moment is precious.

Gabriel L. Dunne & Vishal K. Dar - Naag XY 2015. Photo by Jeremy Joven

One of my favorites in this exhibition is the metamorphosing work of Gabriel L. Dunne and Vishal K. Dar, - NAAG XY. Projected art can be mundane but this is a magical creation of deception and perception. The piece is made with a bulbous foam plaster sculpture stationarily placed above birds eye view with a multi-channel projection of impressive algorithm-based illustration constantly in motion making the sculpture come alive. I was awe-struck not expecting to see this big thing above me as I turned the corner. I felt as if I was watching a throbbing organism changing and evolving right in front of me.

There are many more gems at this show that defy the conventions of art and stretch the abilities of technology while masterfully mixing both. I will not bore you with futile descriptions when you can go see, hear, and feel it all for yourself.

Featuring artists: Paul DeMarinis, Jim Campbell, Alan Rath, Camille Utterback, Scott Snibbe, Paolo Salvagione, Gabriel Dunne, Mary Franck, Mica Elizabeth Scott.

NEAT: New Experiments in Art and Technology

On display from October 15 - January 17, 2016.

Contemporary Jewish Museum
736 Mission Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

The Exhibition

NEAT takes as its inspiration the pioneering 1960s series of projects entitled E.A.T., Experiments in Art and Technology. E.A.T. was officially launched in 1967 by the engineers Billy Klüver and Fred Waldhauer and the artists Robert Rauschenberg and Robert Whitman. These men had previously collaborated in 1966 when they organized 9 Evenings: Theatre and Engineering, a series of performance art presentations that united artists and engineers. Ten New York artists worked with thirty engineers and scientists from the world-renowned Bell Telephone Laboratories to create groundbreaking performances that incorporated new technology.

Now, several decades later, NEAT shifts its gaze to the Bay Area, the contemporary hub for experimentation in digital art forms. The nine participating artists and teams have been commissioned to make new or updated work.

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