Curator: Kate Seekings
What is environment to us, and us to it? How do we affect our environment?
How do we occupy and influence the spaces around us? What of nature and the things that we consume? What of our society and culture?
What of the technology we create, and the secret life of machines?
Outside In is a group exhibition in which 8 artists and creative partnerships from the Northwest and across the U.S. explore environment and our relationship to it through a wide variety of technology-focused media. All works are specifically created for this exhibition, and while some represent an evolutionary step in a series of explorations already core to the artists’ work, none have been shown publicly before Bumbershoot in their “Outside In” form.
The exhibition features one sound installation that creates a subtle sonic backdrop, knitting together eight works of freestanding, wall- or floor-based sculpture. Each work explores environment in at least one of two ways: the natural world and our relationship with it, or the physical spaces and society in which we live and our relationship to these things. All have a deliberately pared-down, abstract quality that allows the essence of the works themselves to communicate directly with the viewer, permitting the viewer to feel the resonance of the works unimpeded by extraneous detail. The use of technology, too, helps this abstraction—few of us are so familiar with the inner workings of a machine, with software, engineering or electronics that we can relate to the things these technologies create without viscerally re-experiencing them when they are presented to us in a new and surprising context.
Some of the works are interactive or sensitive to their own environment, whereas others are apparently self-contained and enigmatic, encouraging us to approach and consider them, but not changing based on our actions. This contrast between the responsive and unresponsive mimics our experience with our environment as we go about our lives: not everything we touch responds; some things can’t or don’t notice our presence—though even when an object appears unresponsive it may have a response we cannot understand or simply fail to consider. Some works are tranquil, while others refer directly or indirectly to the violence that also surrounds us. The artist’s choice of medium and materials varies, too, from the obviously natural to LEDs, from silver and onyx to fluorescent tubes and synthetic turf; from computer chips to chalk.
Outside In Artists
William J. Beaty (WA)
For Outside In, Bill Beaty creates a new variation in his Pond Machine series of wall-mounted, kinetic sculptures that aim to mimic the effects of sunlight and wind on water using electronic media. In Pond Machine III.i, Bill adds interactivity to his animated computer/gas-discharge cellular automaton “water wave” using an infra-red optometric sensor, so that the viewer, by moving in front of the sculpture, directly affects the movement of the wave. Like a pebble thrown into a lake, the viewer’s movement creates a rippling effect in the sculpture, adding to the richness of the water-surface simulation and enticing them to repeat the action again and again.
If “Art is the lie that makes us realize the truth,” then art contains far too much lying: far too much of the shallow facade of technical expertise, or, with luck, too much of shallow surface esthetics. No matter the acclaim directed at certain works, usually we detect nothing beneath their surface besides our own psychological projections. The Quality within a piece depends almost entirely on the perceiver, and most art is one-dimensional in this way. But is it even POSSIBLE to create Quality which is separate from the Quality projected by a human audience? Let’s find out. My goal is to attack the universal trend of art based on shallow facades and viewer-provided interpretation.
The “Pond Machine” series attempts to expose the deep and multi-level esthetics concealed behind the mundane face of the material world. The series is focused upon a single element in nature: the nature of water. Then it explores various ideas phenomena by presenting distorted but active embodiments of the hidden physics and mathematics of fluids in order to make these ideas and phenomena directly visible, or better yet, directly grasped. Rather than the well-explored “art as Rorschach-blot,” call it “art as chemistry-set.” With luck, something inside you may explode or catch fire.
Carlos da Silva (FL)
Carlos da Silva will fill the Outside, In exhibit space with a subtle but pervasive sonic landscape, giving the room a distinct life of its own—a quiet envelope of lush, spare, musical sounds. Da Silva will be creating an original, melodically restrained musical composition for this exhibition that blends original sounds created via a computer and electronic instruments with sounds recorded on his travels. All sounds are generated via modular synthesis, including various tones that trigger different kinds of brainwave activity in the listener, inducing and enhancing a variety of states from mental awareness to excitement to relaxation. The composition will loop seamlessly, creating a continuous cycle that sonically knits the space with the exhibits and with the people experiencing these elements. If the music should stop, it would feel as if the room had ceased breathing.
Seth Lewis (LA)
Recent BFA graduate Seth Lewis’s work for Outside In, Hatching Apparatus, consists of four ceramic eggs resting upon a bed of sand, all connected by coiling umbilical hoses to a compressor. Each egg contains a machine run by pneumatic cylinders. At specific times the eggs will burst open—hatching—as the machines break free from their ceramic casings. The machines themselves consist of a steel frame with a clear vinyl covering and five cylinders tipped by bronze castings of bird skulls. Each machine will hatch, one at a time, over the course of four days, creating an ‘event’ in the cycle of the work that the viewer can choose to witness. In addition, the eggs are translucent. Warm light shines from the inside of each egg, illuminating the creature/machine inside in silhouette until it is suddenly and sharply hatched.
As an artist it has become my desire to explore the various forms of human interaction and the human condition as a whole. My plan is to do this through the medium of machines. Machines, along with having the ability to act out performances in the absence of human performers, are to me an inherent part of human existence. We are integrally linked to our technology and it to us. These creatures or children that I create serve to help me explore aspects of my own life and the lives of others that I don't fully understand and feel like I need to express to other people. The themes in this exploration will range from sensuality and sentimentality to violence to the basic biological needs such as eating and sleeping. As actors my pieces will continuously perform their established tasks to properly express my concerns and lines of query.
The question as to why I do not use human actors to do the work is answered by the inherent nature of machines as tools without the ability to bring in external influence or personal expression that is carried by all beings with individuality (though this may change sometime in the near future). The machines are extensions of myself and slaves to my will as far as nature and physics will allow; something that ethically I could not ask of other people. If the nature of machine existence were to change so would my viewpoint on the purpose and place of my pieces. I do not mean that there is no emotional connection between me and my art. This cannot be because of my belief. If I had no feeling for them I would have no feeling for myself since they are me and I them. As of now my pieces are nothing more than body parts that express my thoughts and emotions.
Eric McNeill (WA)
A new work in Eric McNeill’s Reduction series, his video sculpture for Outside In consists of a series of large, suspended grids of green LEDs projecting low-resolution, abstracted video onto the surface of a wall. The video shows the gradual assembly and dispersal of a large crowd of people, beginning with a solitary figure migrating between panels that is slowly joined by other figures, and peaking with a vivid, large crowd filling the screens entirely. The crowd then begins to ebb away until an entirely blank set of screens remain, creating a dark waiting canvas onto which the solitary figure will return to start the cycle again. This assembly and disassembly reflects the artist’s response to his experience as an audience member at previous Bumbershoot festivals.
I’ve long been interested in how technology can be used to represent and reflect on human emotions and understanding. Most technology is used simply for control, but when repurposed for artistic use it can provide insights similar to and beyond that of other media. For the past several years I’ve focused on pieces that distill information into their elemental bits, and this series of LED works is a study in how we recognize meaning from the barest amount of information.
Andrew Sempere (MA)
A 10’ x 10’ lawn is placed in the middle of the gallery. Visitors are encouraged to sit and enjoy. This lawn, however, is made of grass which refuses its role as a passive groundcover. Sit (or stand) a while and the grass begins to growl, growing steadily louder until the floor shakes. Grrrass! is a new work from the artist’s GrassHappy series, which encourages us to reconsider our experience of interacting with the vegetable world.
Andrew Sempere is an artist who often works with technology, a graphic designer, software developer and an education researcher. Andrew holds a BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a Masters in Science from MIT, as well as a second place ribbon in the Junior Olympics for floor tumbling, an award acquired when he was in 3rd grade (and having much to do with the fact that he was the second guy to actually attempt a routine). Andrew’s floor tumbling career went nowhere, but since co-founding the Tangentlab Art Collective (of Jackal Project fame), Andrew has been teaching, talking and writing about art and technology with various degrees of success.
SID, Inc. (WA)
Unmaking It….The story of S.I.D. INC.
SID Inc. is the collaboration of two artists involved in imaginative play. By redefining familiar objects, we introduce a new reality to the forgotten toy. We take discarded thrift store stuffed mechanical rejects and invent ways to display our play.
Our plush toys and their constructions are based on recurrent action sustained through consumer whimsy. All of the mechanisms we choose are activated by motion, sound, or touch that stress the importance of education through entertainment.
We propose that the marketing, purchase, and speedy donation of these toys allude to a consumptive market characterized by buying escapism and frenzy. Toys have a very short shelf life that leads to an even shorter home life. We believe that consumer involvement in this repetition is a blazing sign of its success.
In this and future presentations, we plan to construct our discarded “toy-bots” out of sterling silver. This contrast between the discarded forgotten object and the cherished precious one underscores our societal contradictions. There is a fleeting value placed on low-priced multiple objects while the cleverly crafted art object becomes a deified possession. What's the difference between a beautifully designed plastic toy and its sterling imitation?
W. Scott Trimble (WA)
In W. Scott Trimble’s Precipitation Generator #1, a track mechanism hovers over a scale diorama of a landscape/city and generates a precipitation of snow substance over the landscape below. The sculpture is coin activated, stressing the importance of the viewer participating in altering the landscape. His second piece for Outside In, Kincade, Eat Your Heart Out, consists of a large continuous scroll of paper suspended vertically to accommodate a large gilded picture frame of about 3ft x 4ft that hangs in front of the scroll. Inside the frame there are 3/5 horizontally stacked stencils that are comprised of components which allow a mechanically driven track system to enable several drawing utensils to draw out a specific component of a predetermined composition of a landscape. The multi stage composition will be drawnon the conveyor-like continuous scroll. An intentionally modified registration system will allow the many individual landscape drawings to gradually distorted and blurred.
I have always had a fascination for the contrast between industry, nature, figure, and machine. Much of my work has dealt with the notion of the influence of technology over our lives, posing the question whether or not technology has given us more freedom. I am continually interested in interactive art and work that is created for the public context.
Ryan Wolfe (CA)
Ryan Wolfe’s sculpture for Outside In, Field, Biaxial, encapsulates the experience of watching the rise and fall of an ocean breeze blowing across a field of wild grass. In both form and motion, it presents an essential, abstracted interpretation of this natural and dynamic physical experience. It is one in a series of machine-based sketches that explore this landscape.
Field, Biaxial is comprised of a large network of mechatronic grass blades. Each blade is a small, independent element within the much-larger aggregate sculptural form. This replication of form gives the piece a unique fractal quality, as any one of the individual blades of grass encompasses all of the behaviors that also constitute the kinetic vocabulary of the entire sculpture. Unlike an actual physical place (but not-unlike ourselves), Field, Biaxial experiences the world internally, and expresses its response to that internal dialog as externalized physical expressions. Within the relative ambient stillness of the gallery, an internal breeze of information constantly blows across the sculptural network. This information is individually interpreted by each node, and then physically manifested through movement. It is the sum of the many internal digital “conversations” constantly occurring between the many blades that coalesces into a beautiful device-based interpretation of this unique landscape.
Ryan Wolfe has a long history of misusing technology to further his own creative purposes. After working as an interaction and interface designer and creative director, Ryan now focuses on using embedded systems technologies as a sculptural medium, and on designing intelligent object and physical interfaces. He currently resides in San Francisco.
Curator: Kate Seekings
After three years working in television sitcom production for a British independent production company, Kate Seekings co-founded and ran London, England-based RenderMorphics, Ltd., a 3D graphics-focused software company acquired by Microsoft Corporation in 1995. Following acquisition, Kate worked at Microsoft in various capacities from 3D Technology Evangelist to Group Manager, and on products ranging from the Windows Media Player to multimedia operating system components and online computer games.
On leaving Microsoft in 2003, Kate founded the Seattle branch of the international family of dorkbot forums for people interested in art and technology in the broadest sense of both terms. She curates and organizes the monthly dorkbot assemblies and related special events, and curated the 2003 and 2005 People Doing Strange Things With Electricity exhibitions. In March 2005, she produced a film screening of rare 1960’s Electric Arts at Seattle Art Museum curated by renowned media arts historian Robin Oppenheimer. Kate also curates smaller-scale exhibits at SeaTac International Airport: her current North Satellite installation showcases work in glass and metal by Northwest artist Ginny Ruffner, while her previous exhibit featured work by folk, outsider and self-taught artists including Gregory Blackstock and Terry Turrell. Kate is curating and producing a two-volume CD of experimental music by 25 local, national and international sound artists, musicians and composers, scheduled for release in August 2005 and already available for free download online under a Creative Commons license via radical net label Comfort Stand Recordings. Kate has a degree in English Literature from Oxford University’s St Hugh’s College. She studied for a MSc in Computer Graphics at Middlesex University and is currently a BFA student at Cornish College of the Arts in Seattle. You can find out more about the People Doing Strange Things With Electricity series of events, and past dorkbot-sea meetings, at www.dorkbot.org/dorkbotsea/archive.shtml