Originally published in Out of Bounds, exhibition catalogue, Nexus Contemporary Art Center, Atlanta, 1996, pp. 6-12.


Annette DiMeo Carlozzi and Julia A. Fenton

Editor's Note: After selecting the artists for this exhibition, the curators met on several occasions to reflect on their approach, the influences that guided them in their journey, and the artists and work they had chosen. Following are issues they explored and excerpts of their conversations.

Can you elaborate on restrictions you imposed on your selections of the artists and any structure you defined for yourselves before you began the studio visits?

ADC: Even though we limited ourselves to the southeastern corner of the United States, location truly became irrelevant. Eduardo Kac, for instance, says that he lives everywhere by virtue of his electronic connections. It was important to us in organizing this show that we structure a process of discovery for ourselves. We set upon a very ambitious task, to look at more work, visit more artists, have more conversations than had been done for any other show in the region. We wanted to see the work that was out there first for ourselves, to discover it anew, and come to conclusions that had not been influenced by anything other than our own working process.

Besides Bailey, Bui, and Duval-Carrié, which of the other artists in this exhibition take on the role of shaman for their culture?

ADC: Well, I suppose the notion of shaman can also be applied to Kac, in the sense that he is involved in technological experimentation -- a kind of wizardry! His innovations in holography, telecommunications events, and conceptual art that uses electronic media have created a new territory that bridges the disciplines of literature, linguistics, and the visual arts.

JAF: We tend to look at the role of magician and shaman as belonging to past cultures. However, in our technological world, one who has the power of information, who can command technology and thus command us, is a shaman, an intermediary between natural society and the supernatural powers of cyberspace. Those of us who are less than technically proficient consider new technologies to be mysterious and magical. Kac performs the shaman's role. He uses this technology to express a personal psychology. His installation is a moving presentation about self-definition. Many artists who deal with new technologies have difficulty making their soul shine through the circuit boards. Kac's work is a probing examination of who he is. His parents are from Europe, he was raised in South America, and educated in Chicago. He uses extraordinarily current technology to investigate not only problems of semiotics and the structure of language, but also to investigate himself as a stranger in a strange land.

ADC: At the same time that Kac is trying to define himself, the essence of his own experience and his own personal inquiry, he's also positioning himself as everyman. In fact, many artists who deal with issues of identity are dealing with universally shared experiences and can speak as everyman.

How does this exploration of identity affect the observer's perception of the work?

JAF: Kac's work is beautiful in its simplicity, even in its use of advanced technology. His work has immediacy for a diverse audience, partly because of his use of humor and partly because his work is participatory. Kac works hard to make his message accessible without bastardizing what he's saying. Rara Avis, the work he create for Out of Bounds, is a portrait of everywoman or everyman that invites one to identify with it. By seeing what the person in the portrait sees, one becomes the portrait. It's a sophisticated installation about the complexities of perception and of life.

What part does the exploration of technology play in the works in the exhibition?

JAF: Elizaberth King's pieces are as much involved with technology as are Kac's works, but in a very different way. Both artists work with objects that are minutely scaled, and mechanically moved. Kac's works involve both virtual and actual reality. King's pieces are always poised to move; they are just at the moment of coming into being. Looking at them, one feels like a voyeur, watching the edge of animacy. One has a reverence towards these inanimate, cold, ceramic, metal, wooden objects. King balances all her work delicately on the cusp of life.

ADC: Despite the whiz-bang technology that Kac brings to bear in getting his message across, he employs a very under-stated use of technology. Even in the robotics, which combine the most baroque elements, he creates a very self-contained presence. His work for Out of Bounds issues an invitation to the viewer to participate through interacting with elements and imagining how one's world view changes as a result of taking on a role. It is an understated piece. One has to come prepared to let it unfold. It would seem, given his incredible expertise with any kind of technology, that Kac could have used more bells and whistles if he wanted to. But it's never about the bells and whistles. Technology is a tool in the service of the idea, the particular intersection between a thought, a phrase, and a meaning that he's seeking.

JAF: Indeed, Kac's technology is not primary. He approaches technology with the sensibility of a poet. In his work one begins to see technology both in terms of the limits it places on the human mind as well as the expansive quality that it generates.

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