“Ghosts in the Machine” at the New Museum, New York
“Ghosts in the Machine” surveys the constantly shifting relationship between humans, machines, and art. Occupying the New Museum’s three main galleries, the exhibition examines artists’ embrace of and fascination with technology, as well as their prescient awareness of the ways in which technology can transform subjective experience. International in scope, “Ghosts in the Machine” spans more than fifty years and incorporates works by a range of historical figures and contemporary artists from fifteen countries. Together, the works on view trace the complex journey from the mechanical to the optical to the virtual, looking at the ways in which humans have projected anthropomorphic behaviors onto machines and how those machines have become progressively more human. Eschewing a traditional chronological approach, “Ghosts in the Machine” has been conceived as an encyclopedic cabinet of wonders, bringing together an array of artworks and non-art objects to create an unsystematic archive of man’s attempt to reconcile the organic and the mechanical.
This exhibition is the most recent of the New Museum’s ambitious thematic surveys examining tendencies in international artistic inquiry and production. With such exhibitions as “Ostalgia” (2011), “Free” (2010), “After Nature” (2008), and “Unmonumental” (2007), as well as its Triennial, “The Generational, ” the Museum seeks to provide the public with fresh perspectives on the relationships between art and culture at large.
The installation at the New Museum includes over seventy artists, writers, and visionaries whose work has explored the fears and aspirations generated by the technology of their time. From Jakob Mohr’s influencing machines to Emery Blagdon’s healing constructions, “Ghosts in the Machine” brings together improvised technologies charged with magical powers. Historical works by Hans Haacke, Robert Breer, Otto Piene, and Gianni Colombo, among others, are displayed alongside reconstructions of lost works and realizations of dystopian mechanical devices invented by figures like Franz Kafka and Raymond Roussel. “Ghosts in the Machine” also takes its cue from a number of exhibitions designed by artists that incorporated modern technology to reimagine the role of art in contemporary societies, including Richard Hamilton’s influential “Man, Machine and Motion” (1955), which has never before been on view in New York. Exploring the integration of art and science, “Ghosts in the Machine” also tries to identify an art historical lineage of works preoccupied with the way we imagine and experience the future, delineating an archeology of visionary dreams that have never become a reality.
Many of the artists in the show take a scientific approach to investigating the realm of the invisible, dismantling the mechanics of vision in order to conceive new possibilities for seeing. Central to the exhibition is a re-examination of Op art and perceptual abstraction, with a particular focus on the work of painters Bridget Riley, Victor Vasarely, Richard Anuskiewicz, Julian Stanczak, among others. Op art was unique in the way it internalized technology and captured both the ecstatic and threatening qualities it posed to the human body. Furthermore, the exhibition includes a number of kinetic and “programmed” artworks as well as expanded cinema pieces, which amplify the radical effects of technology on vision. A section of the exhibition presents a selection of experimental films and videos realized with early computer technology. One highlight of the installation is a reconstruction of Stan VanDerBeek’s Movie-Drome (1963–66), an immersive cinematic environment where the viewer is bathed in a constant stream of moving images, anticipating the fusion of information and the body, typical of the digital era.
The works in “Ghosts in the Machine” are assembled across a variety of media to form a prehistory of the digital age. As technology has accelerated and proliferated dramatically over the past twenty years, artists have continued to monitor its impact. A number of contemporary artists, including Mark Leckey, Henrik Olesen, Seth Price, and Christopher Williams, are represented in the exhibition. These recent works, while reflecting technological changes, also display a fascination with earlier machines and the types of knowledge and experiences that are lost as we move from one era to the next, constantly dreaming up new futures that will never arrive.
The exhibition is curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Associate Director and Director of Exhibitions, and Gary Carrion-Murayari, Curator.
at the New Museum, New York
until 30 September 2012
Stan VanDerBeek, Movie-Drome, 1963—66/2012. Courtesy the Estate of Stan VanDerBeek
Richard Hamilton, Man, Machine and Motion, 1955/2012. Courtesy the Estate of Richard Hamilton
Left: Thomas Bayrle, Madonna Mercedes, 1989. Right: Claes Oldenburg, Profile Airflow, 1969
Channa Horwitz, Sonakinatography Composition 17, 1987—2004. Courtesy the artist and Aanant & Zoo, Berlin
Left: Robert Breer, Floats, 1970/2011. Recreated by BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead, and Museum Tinguely, Basel. Courtesy gb agency, Paris
Seth Price, Film/Right, 2006. Courtesy the artist and Friedrich Petzel Gallery, New York
François Morellet, Random distribution of 320,000 squares using the ? numberdecimals, 50% odd digit blue, 50% even digit red, 2012. Courtesy the artist and Galerie Hervé Bize, Nancy, France
Konrad Klapheck, Reife (Maturity), 1986. Collection David Zwirner, New York
João Maria Gusmão & Pedro Paiva, Eye Model, 2006
Gianni Colombo, Spazio Elastico [Elastic Space], 1967—8. Courtesy Archive Gianni Colombo, Milan
Otto Piene, Hängende Lichtkugel, 1972 (left); Electric Anaconda, 1965 (right). Courtesy Sperone Westwater, New York
Otto Piene, Light Ballet on Wheels, 1965. Courtesy Sperone Westwater, New York
Emma Kunz, Work No. 094, n. d. Emma Kunz Museum, Würenlos, Switzerland
Henrik Olesen, The Body is a Machine, 2010. Collection Kunstmuseum Basel. Courtesy Galerie Buchholz, Berlin/Cologne