May we suggest

Reviews / December 2, 2010

Input/Output: Electric Fields

Lukas Steinman Futures 2009 Detail / photo Matthew Carswell

“Input/Output” at Eyelevel Gallery in Halifax featured seven artists who recently participated in a residency program at the city’s Centre for Art Tapes—Lukas Steinman, William Robinson, Chris Myhr, Amélie Proulx, Chantal Tardiff, Scott Saunders and Wes Johnston. The title not only referenced the electronic nature of the work, it also addressed the way the work oriented itself as both autonomous and interactive.

Lukas Steinman’s Futures transformed over the course of the show from a participatory vessel to a destructive experiment. The work requested the viewer interact by dropping a penny into a small, Canadiana-styled box on the front of a large mechanical device. The work then weighed the penny against two parallel systems: One system displayed the total monetary value of the accumulated pennies on a small LCD screen. The other displayed the market value of the copper contained in the accumulated pennies on a different LCD screen. (This market value was calculated as the machine deposited pennies into a solution of acetic acid and salt, which dissolved the coins’ copper, and then indexed the dissolved copper content to current stock-market prices.) Both the currency value and the market value of a penny are economic values but, as Steinman indicated, they are products of quite different perceptions.

In Young Prayer, artist/musician William Robinson presented a video and artifacts from an automated audio piece that was set up and documented just prior to the show. The video showed an electronically operated pulley system slowly lifting and dropping an amplified electric guitar onto a wooden triangle, while three large amplifiers processed the resulting sound. The work referenced the now-cliché rock act of smashing a guitar and enshrined it as a robotic, repetitive performance.

Recent NSCAD MFA graduate Chris Myhr contributed an audio installation, Sweepings, that produced a continually reshaping soundscape. The soundscape was sourced in live radio transmissions caught by a pair of FM receivers that were perpetually searching for the loudest, clearest signal. When either of the receivers found a signal beyond a certain volume threshold, it paused for a moment, then continued on, seemingly stopping to reflect upon what it had found. The results, which were sent to the gallery’s bathroom as a listening environment, emitted a wavering reflection of what the airwaves have to offer. The work also served as a metaphor for the short attention span of rapid media consumption and highlighted the passive condition of hearing versus the focused act of listening.

Being a product of CFAT’s residency program, the show was somewhat “un-curated,” though the similar aesthetics of Halifax’s emerging artist community, whether intentional or not, created visual coherency within the show. Projects were realized to the point of functionality but not necessarily to a pristine visual solution, leaving the trace of the human hand in what could have otherwise been a series of stark, minimalist electronic works.