Frist Center Announces Camille Utterback Exhibition
The Frist Center for the Visual Arts' Gordon Contemporary Artists Project Gallery will feature the interactive installations of San Francisco artist Camille Utterback in an exhibition entitled Tracing Time/ Marking Movement from February 1 to May 19, 2013.
This exhibition includes four interactive installations which link computational systems to human movement. Also on view will be two new multi-screen works. These live computer generated animations further explore the relationship between painting and kinetic imagery.
To create her interactive installations, Utterback programs video tracking software and writes code that digitally translates body movements into ephemeral kinetic images. "Utterback is interested in exploring how digital interfaces provide the connective tissue between our bodies and the codes represented in our machines," says Frist Center Chief Curator Mark Scala. "Through algorithms she has devised, Utterback creates a visual system in which physical gestures are translated into symbolic expressions akin to poetry, film, and painting."
Included in this exhibition is Utterback's landmark work, Text Rain, which she created in collaboration with Israeli artist Romy Achituv. In this installation, letters, words and phrases from a poem cascade onto the projected image of the viewer/participant. The text responds to the participant's motions and can be caught, lifted and let go. The falling letters are not random, but form lines of a poem about bodies and language. "The text is never easy to read, yet its concrete presence causes us to see language as a thing that derives meaning from its intersection with the body," says Mr. Scala. "In this way, the artist makes reading both a physical and cerebral endeavor in this work."
In Utterback's External Measures series, a more complex set of computational rules yields seemingly hand-painted marks, lines and forms. "Drawing from the artist's formal training as a painter, this series evokes the vocabulary of gestural abstraction, especially the works of such artists as Jackson Pollock and Willem De Kooning," Mr. Scala explains. New marks appear as the viewer begins to move in the space; painterly smears develop as marks pushed from their initial location try to return to their point of origin. Previous marks can be reactivated by the next participant's movements, but eventually older layers of movement become entirely obscured or erased. "The series digitally traces and records the evolution of a painter's process," continues Mr. Scala. "It's also a fun and insightful metaphor for art historical development as one person's contribution is reworked by the next."
According to Mr. Scala, Utterback's systems stand apart from other interactive systems in which we participate-like Google or Facebook- which quickly become 'natural' parts of our lives. These technologies liberate us from a need to be physically present, which risks making our bodies seem irrelevant. Her work reminds us that the physical engagement of digital interfaces is an important part of any technological equation.