The shadow of technology’s pervasive presence stretches across the walls of Bleeding Edge, Hudson Valley Center for Contemporary Art (HVCCA)’s new media exhibit on view now through May 15 in Peekskill, NY. Echoing the promised utopia and oft-dismal reality of advanced technological networks and intimating at the vague disillusion of late-stage capitalism, Bleeding Edge features site-specific installations and new media works by artists Anthony Antonellis, Kelsey Brod, Izabela Gola, Faith Holland, Eleanor King, Amanda Turner Pohan, Livia Ungar and Sherng-Lee Huang. From digital recreations of physical phenomena to the fragmented elements found in our tech interfaces, this exhibit is a striking investigation of technology’s impact from multiple viewpoints. It’s a tour de force investigation into technology’s impact on our everyday experience. The exhibition, curated by HVCCA’s own Michael Barraco, makes a reference to the term “bleeding edge”, alluding to technology so innovative that it engenders incredible risk in its application. The institution itself takes risks with the cutting edge survey of works on view in this exhibit: a risk that ultimately pays off for visitors to the show.
“Pang”, a video and sound installation by artist Eleanor King, visits a mountainous landscape seemingly generated by computer graphics. It is, in fact, a low-resolution image from a survey of the landscape in Nunavit, Canada – a remote province where the artist lived. Nunavit is a remote northern area and serves as home to a large indigenous population. The persistent soundscape visitors experience while observing the video moves between naturally observed phenomena, such as ice melting, and sparse musical compositions. The video introduces new perspectives in examining our relationship with the natural world across great distances and the ambiguous “success” that programs such as Google Earth have in bringing us to remote places across the planet. In addition, it questions how we privilege certain spaces over others when it comes to new technology, and how certain populations can be excluded as a result.
Encountering “How to Facial Mocap Drag” (2018) by Kelsey Brod, the viewer is immediately implicated in the how-to video seemingly led by an Ivanka Trump look-alike. The video purports to teach viewers to utilize software, playing with this entrenched tutorial format by subverting the educational aspect of the video with suggestive political language. Brod navigates direct political accusations, instead inviting viewers to question their choices and actions to see how these align with their personal philosophy. Similarly, Faith Holland’s “Queer Connections”(2017) makes manifest the gendering of inanimate objects by pointing to “male” and “female” electronic components connecting seemingly “incorrectly”. Guiding the eye to these hyper-sexualized connections, curator Barraco notes that when the connection is enlarged it becomes more evident that these combinations that didn’t fit have “found new means of connecting.”
Anthony Antonellis’ witty and clever videos take a playful look at technological flaws that arise with innovative leaps forward. His works “Fidget”(2017) and “Samsung Galaxy Note 7 Fireplace”(2017) re-imagine objects within new contexts as a result of unintended consequences that each product experienced post-launch. Fidget spinners change out in a dizzying array of styles, subverting the original purpose of the spinners. Instead of allowing the viewer increased focus and concentration, the video functions by creating a sense of nausea at the constant cycling of different spinners in and out of the video. Samsung Galaxy Note 7’s penchant for combustibility forms the basis of Antonellis’ fireplace video: visitors approaching the video from far-off can be forgiven for thinking it’s a common home fireplace video before coming closer and noticing the Samsung devices. These works play on the failures commonplace in technological innovation and social disruption.
Amanda Turner Pohan’s “Swipe”(2018) and Izabela Gola’s “New Blue Horizon Harbinger”(2017) approach a remix of old and new media from a unique perspective: horizontally. Barraco notes this format recalls “older forms of technology, sequential like strips of film.” The resurgence of natural materials in these artworks speaks to their pervasive presence in new forms in everyday technological objects: silicon, aluminum, copper. The porcelain in Gola’s objects, backlit and hinting at the presence of a figure emerging in her film “The Blue Kid”(2015), also speaks to the absence in new media of handicraft present in former iterations of human-created “technologies” from past generations. Gola also points to the ingrained relationship between the film and this installation. “The abstracted blue glaze horizon on the porcelain is an visceral emotional rendering of the horizon demarcated in the video, including the one painted on the ceramic props’ decorative motives and the urn vignette.” The blue glaze in her porcelain installation and the pixellated blue background from The Blue Kid share an undefined, amorphous sensibility: permeating the space without articulating a firm definition of its shape or presence.
Gola’s film “The Blue Kid”(2015) appropriates cinematic tropes from classic movies such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and The Maltese Falcon. The artist points to the reiteration of these tropes over time as the inspiration for the menacing, ever-present blue background migrating across the screen during the video. Gola points to the intrusion of this blue mass into all aspects of the film. “With this exaggerated slowed down pixelation I point to a decomposed lossy index image (a.k.a. its lost aura) which becomes a signifier of the exhausted, washed-out cinematic tropes and modalities used in Film Noir and Westerns.” The horizontal orientation of her installation on the exhibition’s front wall also hearkens back to the film tropes. “There is a relationship between different mediations of a horizon delineating a landscape through the different genres in the installation,” Gola notes. “[This serves as] a classic idea in visual representation- [the idea of] a figure relating to landscape— figure as an entrepreneur, or a protagonist directing its gaze at the horizon.” Perhaps, like the trope of a cowboy riding off into the sunset, Bleeding Edge is the distant landscape emerging into view as the credits roll, marking a whole new framework of examining the brave new world of technological progress.