Currently on display at ICA in San Jose is a group exhibition that captures an interesting intersection in contemporary art: the meeting of art and technology. Poetic Codings is a group exhibition that features four wall-based works and 28 iPad apps accessible via eight provided iPads. In the Silicon Valley, where art and technology encounter each other every day, this exhibition is particularly thought provoking and relevant. The wall-based works explore impermanence, movement, and the viewer’s relationship to and part in art and art-making.
The apps explore similar themes, allowing the viewer to become further immersed in the art-making experience. I was initially skeptical about the app-based works. Facilitating viewers’ art-making seemed like something geared more toward children than something provocative and interesting for adults. I’m glad to say I was wrong.
Some of the apps fell flat. But most reawakened in me a childlike fascination that I could manipulate the computer into doing what I wanted, and that art could be the product of that control. I spent a long time fiddling with Gravilux, a piece by Scott Snibbe in which the viewer starts with either a dot grid or a word, then drags his or her finger around the screen to influence the dots into various configurations. The viewer can then further manipulate the dots in a variety of ways using the in-app controls that can change the dots’ number, color, weight, and how dramatically they react to the touch of the viewer’s finger. Interaction is typical of Snibbe’s work; he utilizes it often to promote the understanding that no one exists separately from the rest of the world.
Scott Snibble "Gravilux"
I also loved the deceptively simplistic 4 Square by Jody Zellen. The app itself is very basic. Zellen presents the viewer with four squares: one a solid color, one a line drawing, one a set of three words or phrases, and one a more complex drawing containing all three elements. The viewer can tap each square to flip through his or her choices, and drag the squares to rearrange them. Zellen is the original curator of this exhibit, and it shows. The concept of her app is something the exhibit as a whole works with and comments on: art is ever-changing, interactive, and more often than not has as much to do with the viewer as it does with the artist—if not more.
Jody Zellen installation
A unique feature of this exhibition is that the viewer can take pieces of it home for free. Most of the apps contain sharing features that allow you to save your work to the iPad or share it on Facebook or Twitter. They can all be downloaded in the app store as well, with most of them costing $1.99 or less. In this case, technology makes art accessible to all. And that is nothing but a good thing.
Poetic Codings is up at ICA through September 6, 2014.