Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Obsolete Macintosh Computers Become Works of Art in Gowanus

It’s long been a tradition for Macintosh hobbyists to convert their old, cherished computers into something else — a fish tank, for example. With this idea in mind, Jeff Graber, owner of the Mac Support Store in Gowanus, looked at the pile of obsolete computer equipment in his store and wondered, what could be done with it?

Since the Mac Support Store is part of NYC's Retailer Take-Back Program, the equipment was slated to be recycled. But Graber and Brooklyn curators Michele Jaslow and Spring Hofeldt decided to put out a call for artists to use them to create art pieces.

The result is the show “Programmed,” which opened on Dec. 21 at the Mac Support Store, with a satellite exhibit in the windows of wine shop Red White & Bubbly on Fifth Avenue in Park Slope.

Eight artists contributed 12 pieces to the show, three of whom are Brooklyn-based. “[The artists’] work speaks to the idea of how quickly these electronics become obsolete,” Jaslow said. “What happens to the old, which is relatively not so old.”

The work in the show is diverse; Jaslow described a necklace made out of an iPod and a working lie detector made out of computer parts. Brooklyn artist Noah Fischer created a multimedia installation called “Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish,” (left) named for a commencement speech Steve Jobs gave at Stanford in 2005. The expansive piece comprised of stacks and piles of computer parts with blinking lights set to a soundtrack of Jobs’ speech fills the better part of a room. See the video below.

Brooklyn artist Kimberly Simpson’s work (right), a “video reliquary” dedicated to “Saint Obsoleta.” According to her artist statement, it is inspired by the computer parts and by medieval reliquaries which protect a saintly relic. The patron saint of outmoded objects, Saint Obsoleta encourages humans to adopt new technologies in order to replace the old. She also acts as a guide, directing obsolete technologies and outdated electronic items to their final resting place.

Nancy Lunsford, a Park Slope artist and founder of 440 Gallery, contributed pieces based on quilt patterns (top, left). She was surprised when working with the computer parts, she said. “It was much more colorful than I anticipated, much more delicate.”

Using pieces from computers juxtaposed with children’s pacifiers symbolizes how people are “pacified by computers,” Lunsford said.

With her work, Lunsford wanted to emphasize the human-machine connection. “[Computers] are made by human beings, they are used by human beings... they are more human than we think and we are more machine than we think.”

Graber, too, wants viewers to take away from the show a new way to think about their relationship with computers. “I hope it stimulates people to think about and interact with their electronics,” he said, explaining that we spend so much time using the computer when it’s on that “when it’s off, it takes on a whole new meaning.”

What originally inspired Jaslow, she said, is “what happens to these electronics when you’re done with them, [asking] what is their place in our community, what is their place in art... looking at things in a different way.”
But the most important message Graber hopes people take away from “Programmed” is that, “Computers and electronics must be recycled. There are so many toxic elements within computers and electronics.”

“Programmed” features work by Noah Fisher, Liesl Hazelton, Nancy Lunsford, Mario Marchese, Ryan Mcintosh, Patricia Paludanus and Kimberly Simpson. The satellite installation features work by Ryan Seslow.

The show will continue at the Mac Support Store through March 13, with a reception this Friday, Jan. 15, from 6 to 9 p.m., sponsored by Red White & Bubbly, which is open to the public. For more information, click here.

Photos courtesy of Michele Jaslow.

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