Communicating has never been easier. Remember “Reach out and touch someone with AT&T?”
By Margot Clark-Junkins
Communicating has never been easier. Remember “Reach out and touch someone with AT&T?” You can still do that, but not with a landline, for heaven’s sake, not when we have laptops and I-pads and cellphones. Better yet, you can text or tweet, post on Instagram, or send an IM. Facebook is practically old school. In our frenzy to communicate, and our insatiable need for an immediate reply, how is the immediacy of it all starting to affect us?
An interesting exhibit, “Dear Diary: Update All” at The Neuberger Museum in Purchase (January 4 – March 16), presents works by contemporary artists who are reacting to the effects of social networking and mobile communication. Six large screens punctuate the vast exhibition space, competing for attention. One screen, “Endless War,” appears to be a computer screen operating in real time; the cursor moves across the page, spitting out military updates about violent activity in an undisclosed location. “FF is observing fire. No casualties or damage reported.” Suddenly the words race upward and out of view, as if the page is being automatically “refreshed.” No new information is input, however, and you begin to grow apprehensive, imagining an explosion or attack that no one is able to report. Are people dying while you wait for an update?
Seventy-four sheets of paper form a grid along the length of one wall. These “Love Letters From Home” are actually messages from the US Consul warning employees of terrorist activity. Ironically, these printouts are called “Security Announcements.” Put on the headphones dangling nearby and you can hear a woman reading these messages. Time appears to be of the essence because, after a brief but loving greeting, she reads out the warnings word-for-word. The information must be communicated without delay, given the number of messages and fluctuating levels of threat. And yet the sheer quantity of the words on the wall, and the constancy of the alarm grows boring in its repetition. Is this how we become numb to danger, by learning everything as it happens and then moving on too quickly?
One of the seemingly more simple objects on display — no screens, cords or computers — is a filmy white dress embroidered with flowery tendrils, looking like finely-worked linen from an earlier time. It is a shock when you learn the dress is made of polyvinyl facial gel, quite literally peeled from the artist’s body. The embroidery is created with a computerized sewing machine, using software that allows the artist to switch density, type of stitch and style.
This is Neuberger’s third exhibit since it re-opened last spring after a year of renovations. Each exhibit has been quite different, very up-to-the-minute and sometimes political in nature; the most recent show attracted the attention of Art Forum magazine. The new director, Paola Morsiani, a smiling presence on curator-led tours, is clearly excited to spread the word about this 40-and-fabulous museum. Update all!
Special Events Relating to the Exhibit
Comic Strip Stories
Saturday, January 11, 1-4 pm
Families will participate in an artist-led workshop with noted comic-book artist Victor Castro. As part of the series called “Family Second Saturdays,” admission and workshop are free. Special welcome for families of active servicewomen and servicemen.
Tea Will Be Served
Wednesday, February 5, 4-6:30 pm
Performance artist Chloe Bass will engage viewers in her “participatory artwork” of tea and conversation. Part of the Neuberger’s ongoing series known as “Neu First Wednesdays.”
Saturday March 8, 1-4 pm
Inspired by the art work “I Am,” an oral history project about Sri Lankan elders by Kannan Arunasalam, children and their families will have the opportunity to interview one another in the museum’s recording booth. As part of the series called “Family Second Saturdays,” admission and workshop are free.
The Neuberger Museum, located on the SUNY Purchase campus, is open Tuesday through Sunday from 12-5 p.m. For information, visit www.neuberger.org or call 251-6200.