As technology and advertising continue to transform the way that humans react to and perceive the world, three artists and an arts collective have taken an increasing interest in creating a commentary for these developing ideals. The relationship between technology and humanity is under investigation in DiverseWorks’ first exhibition of 2016, What Shall We Do Next?, debuting at the newly opened MATCH (Midtown Arts and Theater Center Houston) on Thursday, January 14.
According to DiverseWorks’ Associate Curator, Rachel Cook, the featured exhibitions “blend physical materials with digital elements to create a multi-dimensional experience.” Danielle Dean, a London-raised, Houston-based artist and videographer, showcases her work, a collection of videos and artwork that critique social norms and how advertising through media has come to affect society. “I make videos with my friends, family and Craigslist actors using assemblage scripts, images, effects, and things drawn from the apparatus of commercial production and representation” says Dean. Many of her videos are shot in visually sterile environments with abstract props and pastel surfaces, a sort of mock 1990’s commercial set. A variety of musical pieces are spliced together with narrative to create a sense of disorder within her films. She uses some of her own family members in her videos to “collide fiction with reality.”
Dean’s film, Pleasure To Burn, appears to be something relative to a “Vimeo Staff Pick” at first glance, but soon takes a more serious and abstract turn with the addition of text overlays and tense narrative. This film’s script is made up entirely of cigarette commercial slogans. “I am concerned with imperialism of countries such as the U.K and the United States,” says Dean in an interview video on her website. Her past experience as an art director in advertising shines through.
Following her undergraduate studies at the San Francisco Art Institute and master's program at the Center for Curatorial studies, Cook joined a fellowship at the International Studio and Curatorial Program, New York. Her study and travel took her to Paris and other parts of the globe but eventually led her back to Houston to function as Associate Curator at DiverseWorks. “There is something about Houston that continues to draw me back,” says Cook as she navigates her way through studio 3 of the MATCH. “The whole idea sort of began with Julien’s work,” she notes, mentioning artist Julien Previeux’s take on how technology and advertising shape how we, as a society, think and connect with each other. “…From there, I started to see similarities in other artists.”
The exhibit’s title stems from a performance film by Prévieux highlighted with hand gestures and how they have become a patented method of communication throughout time—think texting, camera photography, looking for a date. Actors describe current and past technological development in monotonous, computer-like voices and movements. Patents like the swipe-to-lock function on the iPhone are discussed and used to create a parallel between human movement and our identity in this technologically heightened world.
Jan 14–Mar 19. MATCH, 3400 Main St. 713-325-5370. diverseworks.org