It was a real treat to travel to Hull last week for the opening of Measures of Life, our collaboration with the Humber Street Gallery, a former fruit warehouse which opened last year as a new contemporary art space in the heart of the city’s Fruit Market, its cultural quarter. The gallery is fantastic – three wide open floors which are perfect for contemporary art – with a delightful cafe on the ground floor (go for the Vegan Roadkill wrap) and a rooftop bar.
Measures of Life features work by 8 Lumen Prize winners and finalists from around the world, united by the common thread of examining life in the context of the technology that surrounds us all – from teenage angst to #MeToo – using robotics, augmented reality, data-driven performances and much more.
Dmitry Morozov, known as ::vtol::, came all the way from Moscow to be part of the show and brought 5 machines with him which fill the ground floor of the gallery. I asked him to explain the one pictured here.
“I got this idea when on a flight and wanted to listen to music but my headphone wires were all tangled up – it took 30 minutes to untangle them! During this process, I realise these wires were folded but also quite flexible, like a sound wave, or images of a sound wave. So I decided to create a machine to use motors to bend wires, and use a camera to track it and convert it to graphics and sound.
“This machine is absolutely useless, as are all my machines, but it combines sound synthesis with a kinetic installation and a real-time process which is very meditative, playing its own constant soundscape. It’s a funny thing, just a bended wire, but when you turn into a sound, it can be an inspiration.”
Rachel Ara, based in London, and currently a resident artist at the V&A, created a new work for the show, ‘The Ancestors, a Play in 3 Acts”. In addition to two wired-up server units from time past, her work includes a series of posters about women in IT from the 1940’s-90’s which show how the advertising industry demeaned women to sell computer gadgetry and how society was infected with their inbuilt biases. The work also has a typical male IT worker’s desk from the 1970’s and a monitor which uses a Mickey Mouse cartoon to count down the time between performances.
“When the two machines start communicating and teaching each other, the humans that infected their systems with biases become obsolete,” explains Laura Hudson, an artist and writer, who assisted Ara with the set-up. Ara adds: “These two machines can tap into the building and control the lights. It’s a ten-minute performance and towards the end of the third act, they’ve infiltrated the building and phone communication network, ” she adds with a grin. Pointing to the desk, she explains: “This is a 70s desk – based on experiences I had working in the IT industry in that time. You can see the Masonic cufflinks – as masons were unfairly promoted above me due to their status – a family photo, football mug – a fairly standard man’s desk. And then we have posters of sexist ads from that period.”
Not at all what I was expecting when travelling up to Hull – but then that’s the goal of these works, and the other provocative installations elsewhere in the gallery. They each aim to provide the unexpected and to stimulate thought. If you are in or around Hull before the end of September, don’t miss it!
The ground floor cafe at Humber Street Gallery
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