The Soap Factory explores robots as metaphor

In process work by Colin Lyons
In process work by Colin Lyons
Photo courtesy Soap Factory

While there are no actual robots in the Soap Factory's latest group show, "R.U.R.," robots do act as a metaphor in pieces that take on themes relating to work, industrialization, and personal identity. The show features nine artists. Two are based in the Twin Cities, two are from Canada, and the rest from other parts of the United States. Each was selected as part of the Soap Factory's annual open call for artists. 

Ceramic pieces by Dustin Yager 
Ceramic pieces by Dustin Yager 
Photo courtesy the Soap Factory

The show's title comes from Rossum's Universal Robots, a play penned in the 1920s by Czech writer Karel Capek. In the piece, robots are artificial human beings made of liquefied flesh. They are slaves, essentially, and they ultimately revolt against their masters. The work is all about the fears of the 1920s: the revolt of labor, the Russian revolution, the Weimar Republic, the strikes in London.

The show's title and overlaying concept of "robot" offers an entry point for viewers to think about the artwork, says executive director Ben Heywood.

A number of artists in the show are working with craft, including ceramicists Kimberly Ellen Greene and Dustin Yager, blown-glass artist Amy Ritter, and Katie Murken, who uses dye on Yellow Pages phone books.

Locally based artist Pritika Chowdhry's recent travels have included trips to Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India, where she researched the 1947 Partition in the Indian Subcontinent. For the exhibition, she has created latex casts of the partitions. According to Soap Factory program manager Lillian Egner, the work reflects the strife that has happened in the divisions of those countries. The semi-translucent casts hang ominously in the gallery space, and are both "beautiful and creepy," Egner says.

Part of Pritika Chowdhry's installation 
Part of Pritika Chowdhry's installation 
Photo courtesy the Soap Factory

Interlocking with the theme of craft is a theme of industry. Canadian artist Colin Lyons uses expired copper etching plates to make a giant battery. "It's a metaphor for the labor involved in work," says Heywood.

Of course, the 130-year-old Soap Factory's building has quite a history of industrialization itself. Reflecting that will be Judith Hoffman's work, a giant model of the Soap Factory building. 

Also on display will be pieces by Isabelle Hayeur, including "beautiful and striking semi-submerged photography showing the degradation and pollution of water," says Egner. 

Hayeur has also created "an evocative video about the decay of landscape and water as it is exposed to 20th century industrialization," Heywood says. 

The third theme explored in the exhibition involves personal identity. Ceramicist Dustin Yager is very interested in the idea of the created self, especially as it relates gender identity. Also exploring identity is Nadine Anderson. Her videos look at how we create personalities for ourselves that we perform. 

The Soap Factory
There will be an opening reception from 7-11 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and artists' talks at 7 p.m. April 5 and 11. 
Through April 21
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The Soap Factory

514 2nd St. SE
Minneapolis, MN 55414


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