Volume 18 • Issue 31 | December 16 - 22, 2005

“The Last Generation”
Curated by Max Henry
Through January 7, 2006
291 Church Street
(212-431-5270; apexart.org)

Laurent Montaron is one of the many artists on view at Apexart who blurs the distinction between the analog and digital worlds.

Crossing the digital divide

By Laura Silver

Viva the typewriter and other outmoded means of communication that inform the eight technologically savvy, multi-media works that make up “The Last Generation,” a new exhibition on display at Apexart. Curated by poet and art critic Max Henry, the show is intent on articulating the relationship between obsolete processes and cutting-edge creation.

Analog and digital aren’t necessarily as distinct as one may imagine. The former represents an array of possibilities (think of a clock with hands that can capture nanoseconds); the latter is based on systems stemming from endless combinations of ones and zeros. It’s a “fascinating moment,” says Henry, who collected international examples of old-fashioned objects that inform modern-day inventions.

The centerpiece of his exhibition is Jan Mancuska’s “9 I was falling …” (2005), a floor-to-ceiling countdown in inverted words and figures. The narrative trickles up in truncated phrases: “I will fall backwards into space. I will try to turn my head to see below and count in the air how many seconds I’ll have left before impact.”

The Jack and the beanstalk-esque string of metal text lands next to a DVD projection of an image of the same work. In true analog (read: unpredictable) fashion, other lighting in the gallery creates shadows of the piece that are cast on walls and floors of the room and the arms and legs of passersby.

It’s not a mistake.

Henry positioned the tower of words to anchor the show and to force viewers to navigate as mice —the computer devices, not the rodents — through the gallery. He calls Mancuska’s installation “a sculptural, three-dimensional object floating in the space.”

The natural trajectory leads to Malachi Farrell’s “These boots are made for walkin’” (2005) a collection of six, army-style camouflage hats that swivel and quiver in unison atop a corresponding number of regulation black boots. Out of each piece of footwear, a white cord extends into a pool of electronics stationed on a nearby orange lunch tray. That’s what makes the hats bow in unison, then shutter upward in a series of shock-induced jolts that evoke a rude awakening rather than an act of reverence.

Henry likens the digital/analog divide to the military’s methodology: “In war, equipment is not enough. That’s why there’s man-to-man contact.” The hat-boot combinations pause between maneuvers, so the squashed torsos resemble “analog soldiers” and the hi-tech prosthetics they’re coming home with.

War is also depicted on the home front. Kota Ezawa’s “Who’s afraid of Black, White, and Grey?” (2003), a digitized two-channel video, depicts Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in monochromatic, collage-like sequences of the 1966 film “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” George (Burton) pulls the trigger on Martha (Taylor) and screams, “Pow! You’re dead.” The shotgun yields a striped umbrella — laughter and relief.

There’s something similar about a generation of young artists who rely on simplistic technologies to develop up-to-the-minute media. The results are explosive, unexpected, and oddly soothing. They breed intrigue, not fear.


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