"Dystopia and Identity in the Age of Global Communications"
Tribes Gallery, through Jan 13.
Review by Reena Jana
Tribes Gallery would seem an unlikely venue for an exhibition exploring our
self-awareness in a technology-dominated era. The lengthy show roster includes 54
artists, some of whom are represented by Web-based works. But the
gallery -- contrasting with the show's theme, scale and technical requirements -- is
located in a cramped, second-floor walk-up on the Lower East Side and represents the
last vestiges of the neighborhood's low-tech funkiness.
Yet the show works well, mainly because curator Cristine Wang has organized the
works in a way that emphasizes the fact that Tribes doubles as someone's home. (The
gallery's owner, poet Steve Cannon, usually hangs out on a beat-up couch.) The front
gallery is arranged as a living room, which it is, and the works come off as elements in a
hip computer programmer's crash pad. A video by Jonas Mekas, which features quickly
edited scenes starring Andy Warhol, plays on a TV within comfortable viewing distance
of the couch. And glossy stills from Shu Lea Chang's cyberporn movie IKU are tacked
on the wall, hanging above a sculpture by Andy Deck consisting of a gutted but
somehow still functioning Mac SE computer.
A large side room functions as a "salon," crammed with conceptual pieces ranging from
a brilliant digital photograph -- which updates a famous Tang Dynasty scroll painting -- by
Chinese artist Wang Qingsong to a goopy-looking sculpture by Roxy Paine. Such
works make the place come alive with playful ideas and sly wit, like a cocktail party with a
smart guest list. Finally, a sunroom in the rear features work addressing nature,
including Yael Kanarek's stunning digital images of virtual environments printed on
Plexiglas; Eduardo Kac's poster of himself with a genetically altered bunny; and Mariah
Corrigan and Jonathan Herder's moss-and-cement installation, which includes a video
of breeding and dying flies.
In the end, a sense of dystopian dread emerges as a direct result of the exhibition's
homey, casual context. The venue reminds us that the effects of technology are
sometimes pernicious, and reach into every aspect of daily life.
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