ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The ISEA2012 Albuquerque: “Machine Wilderness” exhibitions at The Albuquerque Museum and 516 ARTS can be broadly described as a continuation of the landscape shows we have been covering of late. But it addresses many more aesthetic and socio-economic issues than whether or not the artist includes or eliminates the overhead wires or the airplane that just flew by.
This exhibition takes a comprehensive view of how art, technology and nature interact as complementary elements or adverse ones.
To produce these compound/complex works of art the Earth’s landscape has been photographed, digitally enhanced, traveled over in a variety of vehicles and mined for its rare metals.
One of my favorite installations is “SEFT-1” by Ivan Puig and Andrés Padilla Domene of Mexico. The piece includes lots of photographs, a documentary video and one of the coolest F-150 Ford pickups you’ll ever see. The entire project spans a five-year journey on what is left of Mexico’s abandoned passenger rail system.
The vehicle is fitted with flanged railcar wheels that can be lowered to allow the truck to safely drive on rails or raised to allow the vehicle to cross open landscape or drive on conventional highways. The truck has a stunning hand-made aluminum body that contains living quarters, sophisticated sensory recording equipment, computers and cameras.
The artists explored the remains of a once-thriving rail-based economy as well as the landscape that the now silent rails traversed. The artists explored the once-vibrant towns that are turning to dust without the economic support that travelers once offered. The overall achievement of these two artists could easily fill several reviews as they now occupy spaces in both venues.
Both shows share crossover works since the two are in reality one giant international multimedia extravaganza.
The museum includes “Albireo,” a solar-powered outdoor installation by Californian Mark Malmberg, who created three self-activating robotic birds. Though it is complicated and well-executed I’d put this piece in the sort of cool column along with “Eternity” by Alicia Eggert and Mike Fleming, who built a clockwork gizmo that spells the word eternity once every 12 hours. If you want to see it happen visit at 3 o’clock.
One nifty piece is “Grand Theft Bicycle” by Steve Gibson, Justin Love and Jim Olson. Viewers can mount a real bicycle and ride it through a virtual landscape in real time. It’s hugely interactive and a real blast.
516 ARTS has two nonriding bike pieces that are neat in their own way. “Gambiocycle” by Fred Paulino, Lucas Mafra and Paulo Henrique Ganso of Brazil is a tricycle fitted with electronic gear for interactive video projection and is able to create digital graffiti in public places. It embodies transportation, communication and the high energy of the urban environment.
Viewers should check out the other bike at 516 ARTS that generates its own high visibility lighting system.
The show could generate a discussion of the entire project’s assumption that there is something unnatural about technology. But we’ll have to save that for another review.
Give yourself some time to visit both venues and plan to go back. It is a richly rewarding show if you give it time to grow on you.
The two-part Albuquerque show is only one example of an array of installations outside of the two major Albuquerque venues.
The Albuquerque Museum and 516 ARTS have information on all of the related exhibits, some of which are open, have already closed or have not yet opened.
This is a major coup for Albuquerque as well as for the state of New Mexico.