A trip to Edinburgh’s Inspace gallery is a little like going to the Apple store. Filled with futuristic technologies, you’ll probably leave wanting to take everything with you, and the staff there know everything there is to know about what’s on display. This is not your typical gallery: the normal hush is broken by frenetic, irregular melodies, the works are more like inventions, and interaction is actively encouraged.
Left To My Own Devices (ends 4 September) explores the new wave of ‘device art’ – media art that champions the use of audio or visual electronics – and focuses on the emergence of device art between technologists in China, Japan and Scotland.
‘The key here is that technology should not be feared. The works presented may have entertainment value, but they can still be read positively with the same value systems applied to traditional Western art practice.’
The works are – according to convention – unartstic in nature, yet despite this still rely on visual or audible immediacy for effect. Their attraction, therefore, is based on the contrast between innovation and aesthetic appeal. The emphasis is on form tied up with function, and in device art the two come together to create the aesthetic experience.
Device art embodies new technologies and asks that the artist’s concept forms part of everyday lives, extending beyond the gallery walls and its confines. In this way, device art is just another strand of art that responds to the late 20th century dematerialisation and democratisation of the art object.
Of note is Toshio Iwai’s Tenori-on, an electronic musical grid consisting of 16 x 16 illuminated push button switches that can be activated to make sound. Marrying sound with image, the work recreates a reverberating DIY sounsdcape.
Sachiko Kodama‘s Morpho Tower is entrancing; the reaction of ferrofluids to magnetic fields creates an abstract tower of peaks and valleys that gives the illusion of solidity.
Other highlights include FOUND’s Cybraphon, an interactive version of a mechanical band in a box, whose performance is affected by online community opinion as it searches for web reviews of itself.
Ellie Harrison‘s A Brief History of Privatisation consists of a circle of six electronic massage chairs that represent a key public service of industry, such as health, telecoms and electricity. Behind is an illuminated neon display that scrolls through the years from 1900 to the present, activating the vibrations of the chairs whenever the years are displayed that correspond to the years that specific industry was taken into public ownership.
The exhibition is eclectic, and gives a disparate – but probably intentionally so – account of the ambiguously named ‘device art’. If anything, the massage chairs are at least a good way of killing 15 minutes…
Check out my original post over at Bareface Magazine!