CITY SIGHTS: Finding the science-art in New York-area art exhibitions
Fringe Festival 2016, The Clemente: "Algorithmism," a play by Alex Hersler
Lower East Side, Manhattan. August 12th-24th, 2016.
By Julia Buntaine
The relationship between art and technology is an age old story still in the making. Technology, and its increasing availability, fueled the tech-art movement begun by E.A.T. in the 60s, when artists such as Jean Tinguely and Robert Rauschenberg worked alongside computer scientists and engineers from Bell Labs to make computers and sculptures do things they never would have otherwise. Now, tech-art doesn't necessarily require direct collaboration - many artists consider the language of code on screen, easily learned through online tutorials, to be analogous to the language of color on canvas.
"Algorithmism," a play written by Alex Hersler, directed by Richard C. Aven, and starring Terrence Montgomery and Sean Shannon, evolves the relationship between art and technology to the next level: the technology as the artist. ACI (Artificial Creative Intelligence), the third yet unseen character in this play, is an art-making machine of the near future. "Algorithmism" asks: what will happen when machine-made art is valued on part with human-made art?
ACI is good - really good. As we watch Paul, the stereotypical feelings-in-paint-on-canvas artist struggle to keep up with this new artificial yet worthy competition, this play also brings in elements all too familiar to those in the art world of the pressures of the market and the tension of the gallerist-artist relationship. Carefully balancing the implications of machine-made vs. human-made art, of the artist's need for creative freedom and the gallerist's need to monetize artwork, each line of the play pulls you one way, then back the other.
Continuing this push and pull, the artist slowly comes around to technology and replaces his paint with code, eventually collaborating with the ACI itself, bringing his work to levels he never thought possible. By this time the gallerist sees beyond the fad of the ACI and feels nostalgic for the old days of messy, physical, "natural" human-made art. In the end, an impasse is found between the two characters, mirroring the balance of arguments between technology-based vs. traditional art presented throughout. And a painting is stabbed to death - but that's a longer story.
Paying due diligence to the complexity of the questions this play raises, rather than presenting answers, the characters lead you to ask more questions. There's no right or wrong side in "Algorithmism," only the beautiful and harsh realities of the meaning and purpose of art, the role of the artist in society, the responsibility of the art world to promote visual trends, and the sometimes uncomfortable but exciting possibilities artificial intelligence will lead us to.
For more information on "Algorithmism," visit www.algorithmism.com
All photos courtesy of the Algorithmism team.