With people’s attention increasingly being sucked into their laptops, smartphones and other digital devices, contemporary artists are trending toward pulling people back into the here and now, asking them not just to look at their work, but also to actively interact with it.
It’s a global art movement but, in Santa Fe, it has been showing up more and more at the Center for Contemporary Arts – not necessarily because the CCA is seeking it out, but because that’s what artists are interested in producing, said Angie Rizzo, visual arts curator.
“It all stems from the artist,” she said. “The world has become a digitized place and artists are interesting in connecting people more.”
So, with the recent “The Breaking Ring” by art collective M12, which closed June 12 at CCA, the wooden enclosure was considered a “social sculpture,” with different groups holding activities within the piece, ranging from yoga to a sewing circle.
In “Love Letter to the World,” offered earlier this year, Edie Tsong and Michael Lorenzo Lopez invited writers to chat with visitors, asking them to whom they would like to express their love and learning a little bit about that person. In turn, the writers would produce a somewhat poetic message, with a copy for the visitor and another to be posted on the wall to become a part of the entire art installation.
The two exhibitions opening tonight also ask the audience to become part of the art, although in a less formalized way.
Ellen Babcock’s “C to See” is an installation of various architectural sculptures that act as lecterns in the Muñoz Waxman Gallery. Each will include written texts with themes relevant to the style of the lectern, with the entire piece considered complete when viewers step up and begin reading the text aloud.
The tallest sculpture, for example, will have readings related to verticality, Rizzo said. Another, designed to look like a crib with branches overarching it, will include readings with a feeling of protection and safety, she said. Another, made up of platforms only an inch or two tall to resemble an island archipelago, will have writings related to expansiveness.
A former Santa Fe resident who now lives in Albuquerque and teaches sculpture at the University of New Mexico, Babcock has produced collaborative work in the past based around abandoned public signage.
In the Spector Ripps Project Space, opening the same night is Cannupa Hanska Luger’s “Everything Anywhere.”
The installation will be centered around a large, disembodied head made of ceramic shards attached to a wire form, almost like beadwork, Rizzo said. In a sense the construction echoes the idea of human interaction with art, with “all the small parts connected and making a whole,” she said.
In this case, people will be able to whisper – or speak as loudly as they would like – into the head’s ear, creating soft reverberations that answer back. Fibrous threads will represent hair coming out of the head, extending out to form a cave-like entry to the piece, according to Rizzo.
“You can touch anything,” she said. “It’s supposed to be a very kid-friendly sculpture in a nurturing environment.” The soundscape, for example, will include sounds similar to a mother cooing to her child, she added.
Born in North Dakota’s Standing Rock Reservation with mixed heritage, Luger is represented by Blue Rain Gallery and has exhibited at Indian Market, Rizzo said. “But a lot of his work is quite subversive to the whole system,” she added.
Some of that subversive sense might be reflected in two of the public programs scheduled in conjunction with the installation.
From 6:30 to 8 p.m. Saturday, La Pocha Nostra, a cross-disciplinary arts organization based in San Francisco, will stage “Uroborus VS Corn Man 3.0,” in which the performers use their bodies “to reconfigure the dreams and nightmares of our current times,” according to a written description. It includes Corn-Man, a contemporary form of Xochipilli, the Aztec god of corn and deviant arts, and the Phantom Mariachi (Madonna of the Bohemian Others), who combats erasure of identities and eviction, according to the group’s website.
On Aug. 21, Dancing Earth, which bills itself as an “indigenous intertribal dance ensemble,” will present a dance and multimedia performance, “Origi-Nation: Roots And Seeds.” The work carries a sense of ancestral wisdom, seasonal shifts, and the wellness of the planet and its peoples, according to the group’s website.