The exhibition HAND/MADE: The Digital Age and The Industrial Revolution opens to the public on September 4 at the Kleinert/James Center for the Arts, with panel talks and a reception beginning at 3:00 pm on September 5. Taking the Byrdcliffe Art Colony’s anti-industrial underpinning as its point of departure, the show examines how, in today’s deeply digitized culture, many artists strive to create work that incorporates elements of the handmade or homegrown.
Based on the vision of British aristocrat Ralph Radcliffe Whitehead and his American wife Jane Byrd McCall, the utopian community of Byrdcliffe was founded in 1902 as a reaction to the cultural upheaval resulting from the industrial revolution. Their inspiration was the English Arts & Crafts Movement, which developed in hopes of providing an antidote to the urbanization and industrialization that took hold in the nineteenth century. The industrial revolution had set in motion a serious cultural angst about people being replaced by machines; that angst still lurks in the collective consciousness today.
The curator of HAND/MADE, Nancy Azara, with her advisory team of Katie Cercone and Emily Harris, selected artists based on the ways in which the capabilities of web-based and other digital media are historically relevant to the industrial revolution. The “people versus machines” debate appears more pressing than before in an era in which our privacy, our attention spans, and the pace of our everyday lives seem less and less under our control. Whether convenienced, empowered, or even “strung out” on digital media, modern societies retain a need for something to remedy the effects of the overwhelming digital turn that characterizes the last decade. Some of the artists featured in HAND/MADE are returning to work that evokes ancient or indigenous ideals centered on earth-based wisdom, community, the mindfulness of the present. Others use art to draw conclusions about the shifting potential of human life amidst the outgrowth of digitized fields and pan-global Internet-based forums. Still other artists in the exhibition marry digital media with performance in a way that emphasizes a personalized, human agency in artistic production. A key feature characterizing the artists in HAND/MADE is the way their work connects the realms of both technology and the handmade object, serving as a symbolic record not only of their resistance to and/or celebration of the digital turn, but of the powerful production of meaning that happens in between the virtual and the real.
A number of free public performances will accompany the exhibition: on Sunday, September 6 at 5:00 pm is A THOUSAND TIMES THY LIGHT: A Participatory Performance Experience Led by Legacy Fatale (Coco Dolle + Shawn Bishop) and Go! Push Pops (Katie Cercone + Elisa Garcia de la Huerta). This participatory art dance ritual at the Kleinert/James presents a new age spin on the Shakespeare poem “A Thousand Times Good Night.” Two additional performances will close the show in October.
HAND/MADE: The Digital Age and the Industrial Revolution includes work by Karen Azoulay, Jude Broughan, Katie Cercone, Alex Chowaniec, Coco Dolle, Elisa Garcia de la Huerta, Emily Harris, Maria Hupfield, Molly Lowe, Jason Lujan, Colin McMullan, Erica Magrey, Diane Meyer, Benjamin Phelan, Kara Rooney, Tarragon Smith, and Jonathan Taylor.
A free panel talk with Nancy Azara, Katie Cercone and Emily Harris will take place at 3:00 pm on September 5. The exhibition runs through October 18.