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Sunday, April 21, 2024

New gadgets, age-old stories fuse art with tech at Chazen’s ‘Message from Our Planet’

The Chazen’s ‘Message from Our Planet’ transports analog messages to our digital age.

Art has always been a way for artists to send messages across generations. From the first depictions of religious scenes to the books of the 1900s, art pieces are snapshots of time passed down for future generations.

“Message from Our Planet,” an exhibit on display at the Chazen Museum of Art, fuses modern technology with age-old storytelling methods to “evoke a similar multi-vocal message by artists who share a human desire to be understood across time and space,” according to exhibit curator Jason Foumberg.

Foumberg said the exhibit, which features artwork from 19 international artists and artist groups, was inspired by Voyager 1, an interstellar time capsule launched into outer space in 1977 by NASA.

“'Message from Our Planet' centers around a basic human desire to be understood,” Amy Gilman, director of the Chazen Museum of Art, said in a press release. “The exhibition challenges the viewer to question their individual legacy and consider how art can be a conduit to communicating through time.”

A paper off a newsstand right at the entrance guides you through the exhibition, but technology takes over from there, ushering in the digital age.

In an era where technology and the role it plays in climate change — be it how technology can be used to prevent climate change or how travel can contribute to it — using technology as a tool to intersect that discussion is powerful yet strangely eerie. 

Being entranced into the pieces of artwork — forgetting it was a screen before seeing it grow and mold  — serves as a testament to Earth changing before our eyes.

Even more traditional pieces take on a new life with the power of technology. Claudia Hart’s “The Seasons” stands as a perfect example of this effect: a seemingly framed “painting” of a sculpture of a woman takes on a new meaning as the sculpture starts to sprout seedlings.

The exhibit as a whole feels like a quieter Times Square: digital marquees, framed screens, attention-grabbing projections and other digital displays center around the core theme of how technology interacts with our environment.

Nam Lee’s “Cartoon Folding Screen II,” for example, uses five framed LED screens to depict a landscape art scroll of a dystopian scene, with progressively louder music accompanying animation of classical pieces of artwork riding bombs across the once-deserted screen.

Tabita Rezaire’s “Sorry for Real” has viewers don a set of headphones and listen to a phone conversation as a projector displays a now-dated iPhone showing a call between someone and the “Western world.” 

Other pieces rely on non-digital methods like recycled computer parts or physical prints to convey art’s intersection with digital technology.

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Although “Message from Our Planet” will particularly resonate with individuals old enough to remember watching technology and the environment morph over time, it’s still a worthwhile exhibit for anyone to take a moment to reflect on how technology has changed the way we communicate and see our planet.

“Message from Our Planet” will be on display in Madison at the Chazen Museum of Art through June 2. 

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Ian Wilder

Ian Wilder is a senior staff writer and current men’s hockey beat reporter for The Daily Cardinal. He’s a former state politics and features reporter. Follow him on Twitter at @IanWWilder.

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