Works by Alexander Reben
Curated by Amy Kisch + Charlie James
SPRING/BREAK Art Show
rooms 2239 + 2240 + 2241
New York, NY
March 6 – 12, 2018
Conceived for the 7th edition of SPRING/BREAK Art Show, New York City’s curator-driven art fair, Amy Kisch and Charlie James present strange/r/evolution—a solo exhibition of works by Alexander Reben. We live in an age where technology is learning about people at an exponential rate. The idea of a true ‘stranger’ is becoming obsolete. Everything from our credit card numbers, voices, pulses, brainwaves, and biometrics of our faces (surveilled with or without our permission), tells our stories. Bay Area-based artist and roboticist, Alexander Reben, explores these and other aspects of our humanity, through the lens of art and technology. As an actual ‘stranger’ coming to town—the towns being the context of the art world and the city of New York—Reben’s artwork deals with human-machine relationships, synthetic psychology, artificial philosophy, and robot ethics. Using ‘art as experiment,’ he allows the viewer to experience the future within metaphorical contexts.
For the SPRING/BREAK 2018 theme 'Stranger Comes to Town'—which is based on the proverb “There are only two stories: a hero goes on a journey; a stranger comes to town”—a series of Reben’s artworks focus on the notion of our increasingly intimate relationship with technology—exploring how it learns to ‘know’ us—and by extension, how humanity is required to activate such technology. This technological symbiosis, represents the future evolution of humanity. In Reben’s control-by-oration installation wax chromatic, viewers are able to transform the room’s environment by imagining and verbalizing almost any color imaginable.
Upon speaking the name of their preferred hue, the room—and the synergetic relationship between humanity and technology—is illuminated with the articulated color. The work continues the artist’s exploration into how through intelligent manipulations of our surroundings, we are becoming ever-more integrated into our environments—and they in turn, are increasingly becoming extensions of ourselves. ‘Us’ and ‘them,’ ‘personhood’ and ‘place,’ dissipate in this externalization.
The artist's Deeply Artificial Trees—featured as an ARTFORUM Critics' Pick—utilizes vocal and visual detection to create unique translations of personhood, in this case, of Bob Ross. The dreamlike auditory outcomes demonstrate the unreasonable effectiveness and strange inner workings of deep learning systems, upon which we are relying more and more as a culture. In ARTFORUM, Janelle Zara describes: "Using a Google visualization program designed to replicate our neural functions, a kind of ... for artificial intelligence, Reben’s piece taps into our deepest fears and warmest fuzzies
simultaneously... preoccupied with the eternal search for higher consciousness and divine light (whether that’s inward, upward, or digital)."
In the “flame fractal” series, the artist leverages his own stranger-ness, while still rendering his art as personal. He starts with a program which generates phrases for him to visualize, such as “obtrusive grass." Reben then thinks about the phrase while EEG (brainwaves) and other sensors read his brain's reaction to the phrase. This data is then used to feed a generative program which outputs an artwork—the color palette of which is chosen by the computer, based on the phrase’s Google-image search results. Ultimately, the computer displays different versions of the artwork, measures Reben’s biological reactions to the images, and makes its final selection based on his surveilled feedback. It ‘knows’ what he likes.
In Reben’s CC to maze print our fiscal identity is alchemized into one of custom automation, utilizing a credit card as springboard. The interactive piece takes participants’ credit card data and generates a unique artwork. In this manner, any individual with a credit or debit card—a defining object for personhood in the 21st century—is able to manifest a personal artwork, that visitors can take with them.
Preview: March 6, 2018
Collectors VIP Preview: 11am-5pm
Press Preview: 3-5pm
Vernissage Preview Opening: 5-9pm
Public Vernissage: 8-10pm
Exhibition: March 7 - 12, 2018
Daily Hours: 11am-6pm
SPRING/BREAK Art Show
4 Times Square, NYC (Chashama)
Entrance at 140 West 43rd Street