Technology in/and installation art

Andrea Pitt

Technological means of artistic expression have become increasingly common. How do artists use these elements, and what does it mean when an artist chooses sophisticated or current technologies versus outdated or obsolete technologies? In An Errant Line, installations by Cynthia Schira and Ann Hamilton provide examples that the specific technology an artist choose affects the work’s meaning and the viewer’s experience.

Cynthia Schira, a textile artist, regularly employs sophisticated digital technologies to program an electronic Jacquard loom she uses at the Oriole Mill in North Carolina. For An Errant Line, the artist created a 30’ x 10’ weaving entitled etymon, in which she digitally sampled images from the Spencer Museum of Art’s collection. This sophisticated loom technology allowed Schira to weave the selected motifs together in a seamless stream of abstracted visual references that are literally connected by thread. The use of high or current technology in this case does not call attention to the technology itself that lies behind the making of the artwork but rather facilitates the goal of the artist for an unhampered visual reading of the work.

In Ann Hamilton’s figura, the digital scanning technology used to create the ghostly images of the presepio dolls raises different issues. Hamilton uses the properties of the flatbed scanner’s contact image sensor (CIS) technology, which produces images with a limited depth of field, to isolate the communicative gestures of the presepio dolls. In this case, a technology which in some contexts may cloud communication through blurred images or words actually reveals the expressive power of the presepio dolls. It is through this knowledge that we, as viewers, can reflect on our own relationship with technology and think about it as an active, rather than passive, agent in the production of the world we inhabit.

Andrea Pitt is a graduate student in art history at the University of Kansas.

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