The Milwaukee Art Museum is currently exhibiting a show called Act/React. I visited the show just over a month ago and have been meaning to blog about it for some time. It is coming down on January 11, so if you’re going to be in or passing through Milwaukee over the holiday break, take a moment to stop in and see the show. It is worth it.
Going into the show, I was most excited to see the work of Cammille Utterback. Her piece, Liquid Time, is one of my favorite pieces of artwork. Several pieces from her External Measures Series are in the exhibition. One piece in the exhibition that really surprised me was Daniel Rozen’s Peg Mirror. The mirror consists of a collection of rotating pegs. Each peg’s end is tapered, and when they rotate in the light, the change in shadow represents shades of light and dark. While it’s a mechanical device, it feels very warm and inviting, certainly due to the warmth of the wood and the amazing precision it shows in reflecting the viewer.
…all the works on show are unhindered by traditional interface objects such as the mouse and keyboard. Most of them instead employ computer vision technologies, more commonly known as interactive video. Here, the combined use of digital video cameras and custom computer software allows each artwork to “see,” and respond to, bodies, colors and/or motion in the space of the museum. The few works not using cameras in this fashion employ similar technologies towards the same end. While this homogeneity means that the works might at first seem too similar in their interactions, their one-to-one responsiveness, and their lack of other new media-specific explorations — such as networked art or dynamic appropriation and re-mixing systems — it also accomplishes something most museum-based “state of the digital art” shows don’t. It uses just one avenue of interest by contemporary media artists in order to dig much deeper into what their practice means, and why it’s important. “Act/React” encourages an extremely varied and nuanced investigation of our embodied experiences in our own surroundings.
Another exhibition currently on view at the MAM is Sensory Overload: Light, Motion, Sound, and the Optical in Art Since 1945. It is a perfect companion exhibition to Act/React, highlighting some of the MAM’s new media collections, and connecting the contemporary work in Act/React to a deeper history of new media work. The exhibition web site notes:
The Museum has collected and exhibited new media art ever since 1967 when it co-organized Light | Motion | Space with the Walker Art Center, one of the first exhibitions on this form of art in the United States. Sensory Overload features some of the most popular works in the Museum’s Collection as well as key works on loan from other institutions and private collections.
A couple notable pieces are Erwin Redl’s MATRIX XV, Josiah McElheny’s Modernity circa 1952, Mirrored and Reflected Infinitely, and Stanley Landsman’s Walk-In Infinity Chamber, to focus on just a few. Many of the artists in the exhibition are also part of the Walker’s collection.