Invisible Threads: an exhibition worth visiting

A handout photo of Addie WagenknechtXXXX.XXX, 2014From the series ​Data and Dragons5 custom-printed circuit boards, ethernet patch cables, 80/20 aluminum 35.5 x 23.5 x 1.75 in / 90.2 x 60.3 x 4.4 cm, each76 x 190 x 13 in / 193 x 482.5 x 33 cm, installedCourtesy bitforms gallery, New York Photo: John Berens
A handout photo of Addie WagenknechtXXXX.XXX, 2014From the series ​Data and Dragons5 custom-printed circuit boards, ethernet patch cables, 80/20 aluminum 35.5 x 23.5 x 1.75 in / 90.2 x 60.3 x 4.4 cm, each76 x 190 x 13 in / 193 x 482.5 x 33 cm, installedCourtesy bitforms gallery, New York Photo: John Berens

I was lucky enough to get a sneak peek at Invisible Threads: Technology and its Discontents this week and I cannot recommend it highly enough. The exhibition takes the technologically saturated world we live in as a start point and explores our relationship with the tools that surround us. It looks at how emotionally attached we are to some of these devices and how they can let us down. Also, as many of them work in ways we can’t see or understand, there is a deep sense of anxiety attached to them and that is brilliantly brought to the forefront in this exhibition.

Not only is it an extremely pertinent subject, but it is excellently presented in The Art Gallery at New York University Abu Dhabi. Michael Joaquin Grey’s My Sputnik sits in the centre of the gallery as an opener. It is an exact replica in size and shape of the first artificial satellite that launched in the 1950s. It marks the historical start of the show and is also a wonderful chance to contemplate the beginning of the information age. Ai Wei Wei’s wallpaper piece, which bears images of the Twitter bird in glistening gold and scores of CCTV cameras arranged in circular patterns, provides the backdrop to the rest of the show.

Standout pieces for me were: Addie Wagenknecht’s XXXX.XXX, which is a wall of server boards and wires designed to help us visualise the internet’s clouds – or places where our information is stored; Evan Roth’s giant thumbprint that is smeared down the side of the gallery wall to imitate the motion our thumbs make several times a day on our smart phones; and Heather Dewey-Hagborg’s Stranger Visions – in which she has taken DNA from cigarette buts, hair and chewing gum found on the streets and created a 3D printed face based on that information. Even writing about this last piece gives me the creeps. It is the most unsettling piece of art I have seen in a long time, forcing us to consider the physical trail we leave through this world and the unnerving technology that now exists to be able to trace us.

There are several other fascinating pieces as well as a commissioned piece from Iraqi artist Wafaa Bilal, which, after the exhibition will actually be launched into space.

Curated by Professor Scott Fitzgerald, the program Head of Interactive Media at NYU Abu Dhabi and Bana Kattan, one of the curatorial team at the NYUAD Art Gallery, Invisible Threads: Technology and its Discontents opens tonight and runs until December 31. www.nyuad-artgallery.org

Published: September 22, 2016 04:00 AM

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