Out of Hand: Materializing the Post Digital

Review

of an Exhibition

by Luned Palmer

Published on April 07, 2014

  • Description:

    Out of Hand is a great name for this exhibit- it immediately implies that the show might be a little zany, and it aptly describes how the survey of artworks in the show are created: digitally. Of course, though most of the pieces are made with 3d printers, CNC machines and digital knitting, the show is complicated by the fact that the hand of the artist is in fact present in most of the works. Maya Lin’s Iceberg, for example, was created through a combination of aerial photography and digital milling, but was hand painted in matte white.
    3d printing and related technologies are not new tools in the design world, and this exhibit does a marvelous job of presenting how artists are incorporating them into their practices. The use of digital technologies in art making is not a fad. “The digital revolution that spawned the computer age is over,” the introductory text proclaims, “forms that were once extremely difficult or even impossible to make are now easily realized.” The show’s curators do not seem surprised to see postdigital techniques and tools in the hands of artists. The show pursues the idea that artists tend to use the best tools available to them in service of their art.
    The show does not just showcase recent technology, however, it also presents the aesthetic associated with the new media. Flowing and baroque curves (as in Jeroen Verhoeven’s Cinderella Table), as well as jutting grids and crystals (like Antonio Pio Saracino’s Ray Sofa) in black, white and gray dominate the exhibit. It is not entirely un-futuristic. The museum stays true to its mission to present “the ways artists and designers transform the world around us through processes”, by exploring design and artistic themes through these new technologies. Digital knitting and digital mills are presented as cousins of knitting needles and lathes. The installation is highly process centric. Plaques explain process techniques and steps, adding flesh to the sometimes bizarre and abstract products.
    The show takes up three floors of the museum and presents over 80 artists, and so necessarily explores a wide range of making and product. Forks sit in galleries with cars, dresses and conceptual pieces. Also incorporated are interactive art making opportunities. Whisper into a microphone and a screen renders your voice into a representation of a jar, stand in front of a camera and become a fractal.
    These new digital technologies have a long way to go before they become widely available, affordable and/or user-friendly. In a way that’s part of the appeal of this exhibition. We get a peek into the way artists and designers are in the first stages of exploration of the materials, technologies and meanings available in a post-digital world.

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