Michel de Broin, Dark Star, 2008. Courtesy of Eyebeam.
Jessica Banks, Ayah Bdeir, Michel de Broin, Max Dean, Paul DeMarinis, Kelly Dobson, Germaine Koh, JooYoun Paek, Sascha Pohflepp, Hans-Christoph Steiner, Thomson & Craighead, Nor_/d (Addie Wagenknecht and Stefan Hechenberger) and Joe Winter, curated by visiting fellow Sarah Cook
New York City, September 5, 2008-Eyebeam is pleased to announce Untethered, a sculpture garden of everyday objects deprogrammed of their original function, embedded with new intelligence and transformed into surrealist and surprising readymades, including a photocopier that reads the night sky; a PDA turned guitar; and a piano that plays the Internet. The exhibition features pieces by 15 artists working at the intersection of art and technology, including current and former Eyebeam residents and fellows, as well as leading international artists. Untethered opens September 25 and runs through October 25, and is accompanied by a downloadable audio guide (available at www.eyebeam.org).
Sarah Cook, the exhibition’s curator, cites the art-historical discourse on readymades, and current ideas concerning the designed obsolescence-or shelf life-of consumable technologies as her inspiration for the show. “The idea of the readymade hinges on a mysterious quality of displacement, wherein objects are not just decontextualized, but actually transplanted from one realm of experience to another,” Cook said.
“In researching the work of Eyebeam’s resident artists I read [MoMA curator] Margit Rowell’s writing on the readymade and identified a link to contemporary “hacks” and instances where artists have deprogrammed technological objects in order to create a kind of magical experience for the viewer.” This “otherworldly” aesthetic is evident in the works on view, such as in Michel de Broin’s sculpture Dead Star (2008), an inert asteroid of nearly depleted batteries, and Joe Winter’s Xerox Astronomy (2008), in which a generic photocopier and desk lamp are transformed into elements within the cosmic system used by an imagined observer.
Additionally, as a show of objects that have been tinkered with, invented, and allowed to be “generative”, that is, open to experimentation and other use, Untethered presents a deliberate reference to the notion of “tethered appliances” (a term used by Internet scholar Jonathan Zittrain in his book The Future of the Internet and How to Stop It, Yale University Press and Penguin UK, 2008)-technologies, such as iPods or cell phones, that contain proprietary software and are tied to single uses or networks. In this, the exhibition ties into Eyebeam’s recently launched Open Culture Research Group, a forum for the investigation of free and open source software and hardware.
Both displaced and in some cases deprogrammed, the pieces in Untethered ask us why we understand some things as useful hardware and other things not. For instance, how does an inflated garbage bag become a way to disguise your bike, as in JooYoun Paek’s Not Bicycle Cover (2008)? Neither prototypes nor edgy products, the works in the exhibition will surely invite conversation on the semantic barriers between the worlds of art, design and technology.