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San Francisco
Group Exhibition
The Lab
2948 16th Street, San Francsico, CA 94103
July 9, 2010 - August 7, 2010

All Natural Technology
by Tonya Warner






There is a long-standing argument that technological advancement has come at the expense of our connection to nature. While valid in certain respects, the artworks in the exhibition “Illuminated Forest” handily challenge such a reductive notion. For these multi-disciplinary artists, technology is a means of reconnecting with and reframing the natural world. Through the use of gadgets and sound equipment, the organic translates the digital and the digital, the organic.

An environmentalist undertone reminds visitors that they impact the world around them. The artists put an emphasis on recycled and reused materials with a strong sense of transformation. For example, Reenie Charrière’s work Washed Up, 2009, features plastic debris that has found its way onto the shores of the Oakland Estuary near her studio. She built a tower of Ziplock baggies to display these sundry artifacts, which hang above a floor-projected video of waves lapping at the shore where they were discovered. Charrière’s use of technology here serves as a reminder of this work’s real implications. While nearby, Suzanne Husky crafted a miniature textile forest out of old clothing, entitled simply Forest (2007). Her trees serve as a forest-within-a-forest, resembling patchwork quilts or the homespun wholesomeness of DIY crafts.  They are also a woman-made reinterpretation of the natural environment.

The exhibition strongly makes the case that man’s relationship to the natural world has shifted so thoroughly that the intervention of interactive technologies seems not only logical but the necessary way in which to engage an audience. The star of the show, however, is not the machines themselves but their source material, which has been craftily reinvented into a rather fantastical landscape.

Gossamer curtains interrupt the darkened gallery space, creating separate microsites of wonder that allow for intimacy with the different, individual works. From field recordings to animal-carried video cameras to playable fabrics, the digital interventions make for a dynamic and interactive environment, both real and imagined. Many of the works are directly participatory, triggering echoing chirps and soundscapes of invisible creatures as one maneuvers through the space.  Each piece works in tandem, adding sounds, smells and context to the experience of the show as a whole.

“Illuminated Forest” is a part of the Soundwave Festival ((4)) Green Sound presented by Me’di.ate Art Group.  Experimental music and sound performances every Friday and Saturday night over the length of the exhibition.  See the Lab’s website for more details.

- Tonya Warner


Image: Reenie Charrière, Washed Up, 2009. Courtesy of the artist and LAB.


Posted by Tonya Warner on 7/19/10

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Thanks Tonya for an excellent article. I believe that increasingly artists will turn their attention to environmental and climate change issues within their art as this starts to dominate both our personal worlds and that of the media. I for one am looking forward to the output and agree that if you were to separate or exclude technology from this on a matter of principal it would be very naive and limiting to the possibilities and the impact you could have on your audience.

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