Two installations on display at Wood Street Galleries — “Pêle-Mêle” by Parisian Olivier Ratsi and “Boîte Noire” by Martin Messier of Montreal — epitomize new media art.
And though it’s something rarely exhibited in the United States, “That’s rapidly changing,” says Murray Horne, Wood Street Galleries curator.
“This type of work is far more prominent in Europe and Asia than it is in this country,” Horne says. “I think it’s because there’s no commodity value in this work. The American art scene is dominated by the commodification of the art object, and there is no value in this work in terms of being able to put it on your wall.”
New media art is created with new media technologies, including digital art, computer graphics, computer animation, virtual art, Internet art, interactive art, video games, computer robotics, 3-D printing, cyborg art and art as biotechnology.
“In Europe and Asia, artists working in this genre can make a living by exhibiting from art festival to art festival,” Horne says.
Indeed, there are festivals and conferences dedicated to new media, digital art and futurity, such as Prix Ars Electronica, ZERO1 Biennial, Transmediale and the Japan Media Arts Festival.
Only in recent years have American curators taken notice. In 2012, the Museum of Modern Art in Manhattan set up its Department of Media and Performance Art, which has a collection of more than 2,400 works, of which more than 900 are complex installations — with films, videos or props — intended for a gallery space.
“With MoMA, that’s a marked change for them to do such a thing,” Horne says, “because it is a move away from the gallery system that is so pervasive in New York.”
The two works on display at Wood Street both constitute American premieres by two artists already prominent in the new media arena.
Ratsi’s work has been shown across the world in many new media art festivals, foundations, group and solo exhibits, including Mutek and Elektra in Montreal, Némo in Paris and Digital Choc in Tokyo. Messier has won several nominations and awards, including the Prix Ars Electronica 2010, Prix Opus 2012, best short experimental film award at the Lausanne Underground Film Festival 2013 and the Victor-Martyn-Lynch-Staunton Award 2013.
Located on the gallery’s second floor, Ratsi’s “Pêle-Mêle” is an immersive experience in which computer-generated projections of moving horizontal and vertical lines superimposed on angled screens create the illusion of depth and dematerialization.
“ ‘Pêle-Mêle’ is a work that deals with the perception of space,” Ratsi says. “This project evokes the possibility of the existence of space-time tunnels or other universes parallel.
“It is made up of two modules augmented by a video projection that viewers are able to see from any viewpoint. But the content uses anamorphic visuals that are projected and diffused from one module to the other, visible from one sole and unique viewpoint. This viewpoint is placed at equal distance between the modules. From this viewpoint, the visuals that seemed to be flat at first suddenly start delineating a new space.”
In essence, when standing between the modules, it has the appearance as if one is moving through a corridor without actually moving. “It’s kind of like a virtual reality,” Horne says, “but generated in real time. You’ll never see the same sequence twice.”
With “Boîte Noire” (Black Box), located on the gallery’s third floor, Messier has created a different kind of experience by projecting a beam of light through two large transparent boxes made primarily of plastic film. Into these plastic boxes pumps fog from a fog machine. The light beam moves through a 15-minute projection in which it takes on many forms and manipulations, which are captured and intensified by the fog.
“The fog gives form to the light,” Horne says.
With synchronized sound elements, which in some instances sound like static, the movement of the light beam through the fog gives the whole installation an elusive quality.
This is not the first time Horne has chosen to display new media pieces like this. In fact, new media has dominated the gallery’s programming for more than decade.
“I think it’s going to become more popular,” Horne says. “Sixty-five percent of our audience here is under the age of 30, and they are going to carry that interest with them to their children. Kids are, more or less, growing up with digital media.”
Kurt Shaw is the Tribune-Review art critic. Reach him at email@example.com.