In the blink of an eye, technology changes. The Denver Art Museum (DAM) celebrates this revelation in Blink! Light, Sound and the Moving Image, its first large-scale exhibition devoted entirely to electronic and time-based media. Focusing on artwork from the past 30 years, Blink! will explore how technology-based art—often considered mechanical and cold—relates to the human spirit through narrative, performance, music, humor, social and political issues, nostalgia and the purely sensory.
On view March 13 through May 1, 2011, the exhibition draws primarily from the collections of the DAM and Polly and Mark Addison.
“This exhibition explores the possibilities that arise when artists use non-traditional methods to express an idea,” said Jill Desmond, exhibition curator and curatorial assistant in the department of modern and contemporary art at the DAM. “Artists have taken and re-contextualized everyday technology and pop-culture highlights to create an active experience that delights the senses and brings static objects to life.”
Whether visibly anthropomorphic or not, many of the objects in the exhibition are made in our own image. Humanizing technology and taking a fresh perspective on what everyday electronics mean to humankind are underlying themes of the show.
This concept was pioneered by electronic artist Alan Rath and video artist Nam June Paik. Rath drew from his engineering background to manipulate the intended functions of everyday electronics to make works that literally imitate the human form, like his artwork Looker II. Nam June Paik’s Lady Secretary, Bilingual, Will Travel…, also explores the human qualities of electronic media. This
influential work composed of TV monitors stacked into a human-like shape takes a step beyond the traditional robotic form and allows the electronic piece to have a personality.
Artworks selected for the exhibition are grouped around various sub-themes or artistic processes,
beginning with the use of video. Artists including Lorna Simpson, Christian Marclay and Mark
Wallinger use video and the human form to link the physical to the conceptual. Using clips from
popular movies, songs and writings that embody classic cultural stereotypes, the artists re-present
these ideas in a way that allow the viewer to see, hear, feel and think about cultural norms and
stereotypes in a new way.
Through the use of painting, drawing, collage, digital and stop-motion photography, the element of
theater and the drama of the story are explored by artists such as Jeremy Blake, William Kentridge,
Jacco Olivier and Stacey Steers. The large electronic environments of Steina, Bjørn Melhus and
Charles Sandison engage viewers in personal encounters with space and time. Visitors are immersed in the settings and actually become part of the experience. Finally, a selection of light-based works by artists such as Dan Flavin and Sylvie Fleury draw on the natural human attraction to light.
“Blink! takes a look at the radical transformation of technology over the past 30 years and allows visitors to contemplate their role in this change,” said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM. “I think people will be surprised by the familiarity and comfort they feel with the artwork and how human electronic art can be.”
The exhibition will be installed in the Anschutz Gallery and the Martin and McCormick Gallery on level two of the museum’s Hamilton Building and spill out into the public spaces. Comfortable seating areas that support extended looking, listening and engagement with the art will be incorporated throughout the space so visitors can slow down and spend time with each piece.
Aside from in-gallery informative components, visitors can participate in docent-guided tours
and public lectures by artists included in the exhibition. The DAM will also host a series of
Insider Moments during the installation including a discussion on issues surrounding how
to conserve the artworks and preserve the artist’s intent when dealing with media and technology that is or quickly will become obsolete. For the most up-to-date details on programming, visit www.denverartmuseum.org.
A companion guide featuring all new media artworks currently in the DAM’s collection will be
published. The book will highlight the history and role of electronic media at the DAM.