Last-look: Great Show!!

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Virtualization of experience and the object in the age of the post-digital are dismantled as form and topic in UCLA’s group show highlighting 2016 Design Media Arts MFA’s. Showcasing 6 artists and over 18 pieces, the works on display from this year’s grad students materialize a collective questioning of meaning, artificial intelligence, the fragmentation of real-time, and an infatuation with the infinite. Organized by Aram Bartholl, Great Show!! features new works by Adam Ferriss, Hsinyu Lin, Jesse R. Fleming, Neil Mendoza, Peter Lu, and Theo Triantafyllidis.

The idea of excavating meaning in an era post-authenticity are most acutely toyed with in the works of Triantafyllidis, Mendoza, and Fleming, where the role of the machine is displayed as a two-fold, augmented device. In How To Everything, Triantafyllidis’ wall-scale projection is a generative live simulation; revealing a system of images attempting to create meaning by juxtaposing a random selection of objects that interact with each other. Running in real-time on a high-end gaming PC, the story we see is never-ending— the moving image we see never loops— instead producing what the artist calls, “a neverending orgy” like real-life itself, where fragments of narrative and meaning collapse into a seamless plane.

In Fleming’s three-channel video installation, Illusions of Embodiment, the Oculus experience is dissected into three views: a moving image of the eyes of the device controlling the participant (“the puppet”); the participant’s behavior as they react to having a virtual body; and the participant’s view through the lens of VR as they navigate through simulated space. Similarly, in L’arrivée, authority and agency are further investigated in an era of the post-digital— a reality where Oculus VR is currently available to the masses at Best Buy and whose fate as an appliance seems to lie in the hands of none other than Mark Zuckerberg.

“Computers are stupid” is one of any phrases that can be muttered into the contraption of Mendoza’s Foot and Horns, where a projection maps speech recognition onto a frame with an artificial foot via the mechanics of a robot’s foot and horns. Notions of agency, the peculiar mechanics of devices, and how these factors shape portraits of identity, space, and history in a post-everything age, are subjects that seem to haunt and beckon the dizzying mesmerization enriched throughout Great Show!!

Upon entering and exiting the New Wight Gallery, we meet the double shadows of Adam Ferriss, rendered in his opposite wall hung portraits Mean Face. Dye sublimation prints on aluminum, the first is monochromatic, while the second embeds the same portrait within three-separate colored channels. Resembling a heat-map, the portrait is a diagram. This is the post-digital artist. Here, Ferriss mounts an interesting continuum to his research where schematics and layers are alienated to reveal the complexities of their systems. Ferriss cites his interest in “figuring out what I look like to the thing looking at me;” an idea which seems to unite the graduating class this year— connecting their varied bodies of work into an exquisite corpse painting what “post-digital” really looks like.

Great Show!! closes at New Wight Gallery (Westwood) Thursday, May 26th.

All photos © the artists.
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