ESC: Contemporary Art and Technology


Your first show as an art school graduate is always a daunting task. This past April at artist-run centre The Fifty Fifty Arts Collective, Charles Nasby invited his local schoolmates Willie Seo, Jaedan Leimert, and Luke Fair to embrace the challenge with show, ESC: Contemporary Art and Technology. Hoping to start a conversation around how technology can change the way we perceive our surroundings, the Visual Arts students from the University of Victoria triumphantly tackled their pursuit with everyday mediums unfamiliar to our generation.

Willie Seo is a prolific artist who has skills and ideas far ahead of many professional contemporary artists today. While many of his past pieces discuss cross-cultural experiences, his works in ESC speaks to the process that happens when exhausted and fresh technologies collaborate in a new, unexpected way. Seo appreciates the way our household goods are constantly morphing into a form that new technologies of our time dictate. His piece that spoke most to me was a sound sculpture made up of old TV screens. It was flattened and recomposed into a flat screen, an ingenious way to appropriate familiar materials into a completely useless, foreign, but beautiful form that glistened in the sunlight.

Influenced by his interest in philosophy, Charles Nasby’s past works of colourful geometric paintings and site intervention pieces cause us to question the fundamental nature of existence. What we see may not always be as it seems. In ESC, Nasby consciously layers different equipment together by scanning an image of a time lapsed video of Grand Central Station, NYC, on an iPod. From far away, you can see a stereotypical photo of the busy landmark, distracted by a few glitches here and there. Up close, the eye can only see what technology sees – tiny pixels and strips of colour. With technology adapting at a quicker pace each day, Nasby divulges how we are constantly using different forms of technology together.

Constantly taking apart old and new technologies to create ambiguous images, Jaedan Leimert challenges the very idea of an image. Emphasizing how a beautiful image in today’s art world does not necessarily need to be original, he takes images from Google Earth and zooms in until abstract. He then prints a screen shot of the pixelated image to illustrate the irony of the ‘all-knowing’ technology. In this exhibit, we see what Google Earth sees—sometimes very little.

Despite only being a third year student, Luke Fair’s ideas were wonderfully developed. His piece, Untitled, consisted of old pipes jutting out of large dark green barrels. The self-identified “technological scientist,” believes that technology does not have to involve highly advanced technological devices. By re-purposing found objects into working instruments, each pipe used in this work communicates a different abstract sound. Fair focuses on turning banal everyday objects into hi-tech, underscoring the notion that the human mind perceives space differently when the function of an object changes.

The artists of ESC successfully started their own dialogue with technology, and after visiting the exhibit I found myself amidst my own. I recall rewinding and fast-forwarding the cassette tape over and over to get just the right spot, or flipping through CD album leaflets for the included art and lyrics. Our generation has witnessed multiple technological passings, from VCR players, CD players and Discmans, to analog film cameras. With the future of the digital age is as unpredictable as its past, this dialogue is definitely one worth having.
Images sourced by Jen Yuen.


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