Art exhibit mocks ‘absurdities’ of technology

Written By Nicole Chynoweth

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The first piece of artist Jesse Hulcher’s technology art in his latest exhibit is “Gone Forever,” a spotlighted metallic silver trashcan with Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” playing near it.Then there is the second piece, “Drive It Like You Stole It,” which is an electronic book Hulcher wrote, displayed on an iPad, a literary work he purposefully made “unimaginative,” according to Hulcher.”I am inspired by new gadgets, like Facebook and Internet trends,” said Hulcher, 30, in an interview last Thursday afternoon. “I don’t like to reference them too specifically, but I just like to play with them.”In all, the 14 pieces of the exhibit on display at SPACE Gallery are a series of Hulcher multimedia related pieces that use computer technologies such as email, iPods and video to create installation art.”I am using tools that anybody who buys a Mac computer can have and I’m making my art,” Hulcher said.Hulcher received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in 2003 from the Atlanta College where he focused his studies on digital video. He earned his Master of Fine Arts from Carnegie Mellon University. The artist, who concentrates much of his work on creating video art, currently considers himself a resident of Pittsburgh, but does not like to refer to himself as a resident of any one place because he does not like to live in anywhere for more than 10 years. He has resided in 13 cities. He helped to curate a group exhibit called “Smoke & Mirrors” at SPACE in 2009 and has also been involved in group exhibitions at the Mattress Factory, The Andy Warhol Museum and Future Tenant Gallery. SPACE, located at 812 Liberty Avenue, exhibits contemporary artwork that employs different types of artistic methods, such as Hulcher’s multimedia artwork. SPACE is exhibiting 14 pieces of Hulcher’s work in his solo exhibit titled, “Straight Outta CompUSA.” “It’s a show full of very simple pieces,” said Hulcher, who pokes fun at various elements of technology in the exhibit. “I’m hoping the audience gets a sense of physical, intellectual and emotional vacancy.”The exhibit, the title of which references the defunct consumer electronics retailer CompUSA and American hip-hop group N.W.A.’s song “Straight Outta Compton,” consists of installation artwork all of which are made up of technological tools such as the iLife software suite, DVD players, HTML code and Internet design that are meant to show technology’s capabilities in a humorous light, according to Hulcher.Each piece, whether hanging on a wall or set on a pedestal, has some sort of equipment involved in it, such as “Untitled,” which plays a “Jurassic Park” movie trailer that Hulcher made using iMovie and, “DVD Player,” which uses a Mac mini computer to play an HTML-coded DVD logo moving across a computer screen. According to Hulcher, the pieces depict “stunted intellectual growth or stunted creative growth” by showing how simple it is to create using today’s computer and digital technologies.”I’m not trying to make a statement or a judgment about media either way,” said Hulcher, who hopes to create a sense of mental vacancy within the exhibit. “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with making art with iLife, and I don’t think I’m any better than anyone else or a more legitimized artist because I’m showing in a gallery. I just think these pieces are interesting.”With its strong connection to current technologies, Jonathan Chamberlain, a 29-year-old preparer and installation attendant at SPACE, insists students will relate to how today’s world portrays technology in the exhibit.”Specifically for students, almost every piece in here is something they would not only enjoy but appreciate,” Chamberlain said in an interview last Friday afternoon at SPACE. “This show is definitely understandable and comprehensible for younger people.”Upon entrance to the exhibit, visitors notice a strict color scheme of black, white and gray, as well as the computer icon of a text document covering part of the right wall, which represents the use of Microsoft Word. Sounds from Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven” resonate through SPACE’s sparsely populated room, accompanied by the techno beats of  “The Shaggs’ Philosphy of the World with Auto-tune,” a piece that is Hulcher’s way of challenging Auto-Tune’s cure-all ability on a “notoriously horrible” album, according to Hulcher.”He’s taken a famously horrendous and terrifically naïve album [“Philosophy of the World”] and Auto-Tuned a portion of it, leaving the listener asking if it’s an improvement or is does it make something that sounded out of this world before sound even worse,” Chamberlain said.Other pieces reference basic technology like word processing and computer games. To create number 13, “The Closure We’ve All Been Waiting For,” Hulcher ran back and forth between a computer at an Apple store and a computer at a Microsoft store, playing against himself in a computer game chess match. The piece consists of a Microsoft Word document of the play-by-play from the match printed on it to symbolize the rivalry between Apple and Microsoft as computer companies.”Sometimes when I make work I try to make things that are really simple and based on culture, like watching lots of television, doing nothing but surfing the Internet or having yourself brainwashed by Hollywood,” said Hulcher of the exhibit’s inspirations. “I don’t want it to be taken too seriously, but that is part of it.”The exhibit, which is free to the public, invites its audience to interact with the worlds created within each piece, such as listening to music and watching video.”I think good shows make demands on an audience,” said Chamberlain. “There will be a level of engagement that is different from staring at a painting or an object. There’s certainly that type of relationship in this show, but there are pieces that you have to spend time with to enjoy.”

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