Soap Factory gives a glimpse of the future of art

Wire less, by Anthony Tran
Wire less, by Anthony Tran

Continuing its reputation as the art gallery with the highest nerd cred, the Soap Factory is hosting Northern's "Art(ists) on the Verge 2011-2012." Now in its third year, AoV is a yearlong mentorship-based fellowship program for artists working in emerging technologies. The opening reception last Saturday offered a glimpse of what the artists have been working on, including interactive games, gadgets, animatronics, lasers, and other science fiction-type stuff.

One especially cool installation is Anthony Tran's Wire less, which is kind of like a fun-house mirror that uses electromagnetic radiation. You walk into the back room of the Soap Factory, and look into a giant mirror as a Kinect RF sensor projects toward you and the mirror. According to the notes, the sensor uses "3D bodytracking and radio frequency sensors" to pick up your body's natural electromagnetic radiation as well as any additional radiation from technologies such as cell phones and other devices. It's strange to see an image of yourself as a kind of Borg, and it's especially interesting to see how the image changes as more than one person takes up the space. 
'Status Update', by Carly McMorrow
'Status Update', by Carly McMorrow

Another piece, Status Update by Carly McMorrow, uses old-fashioned tools to comment on emerging technologies. Central to the installation is an antique phone, where participants are encouraged to record an answer to a question for the next participants to hear. Surrounding the telephone are vintage lights strung from the ceiling and spoken recordings. Unfortunately, opening night was so lively that it was difficult to hear, so perhaps this particular installation will be better experienced on a more quiet day.

Nevertheless, the idea of the piece -- that something like a "status update," a phenomenon we think of as coming from social networking tools like Twitter and Facebook -- can be seen in a different context. The need to record one's thoughts is obviously much older, and parallels can be found in earlier kinds of technologies. Besides being eerie and quite beautiful, McMorrow's work touches on to a kind of basic need to reach out and communicate to others, even if those other people are strangers. 

Other pieces in the show included Mike Hoyt's video paintings of the Powderhorn neighborhood, a Sim City-type game by Aaron Westre, and a miniature world created by Drew Anderson that is also interactive. As a whole, all of the installations are quite complicated, and it takes more than passive participation to interact with what the artists have created. That's probably the best part of the exhibition, in fact. Rather than simply being observers, as a viewer you are called on to be a part of the process. 
'City Fight!' by Aaron Westre
'City Fight!' by Aaron Westre


"Art(ists) on the Verge 3"
Through April 15
The Soap Factory
514 Second St. SE, Minneapolis
Two artists from the exhibit are scheduled to give talks at the gallery on March 23 and March 30 at 8 p.m. 

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The Soap Factory

514 2nd St. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414


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