Two grand experiments fusing art, science and technology will be revealed Friday night.
First, Disruptors at Artisans Enterprise Center in Covington. Curator Morgan Cobb explains the process behind the exhibit: Take one fine art appraiser who is plugged into the tech/startup community (Cobb), add innovators (aka disruptors) seeking exposure and relevancy, then introduce one inventive photographer (Peiter Griga). Shoot portraits on black-and-white film, but layer each with a digital QR code linking to the disruptor’s forward-thinking project. For a real twist, develop the combined images in Griga’s honey emulsion over five to nine days, then coat with beeswax. Invite smartphone users to scan the “QRtifacts,” then tweet with and meet with the people behind the pixels.
“The whole idea is based on coming together,” says Cobb. “With their smartphones, younger people engage (with art) on a level they’re comfortable with, and older people discover something new.” (Greeters will stand by to explain the technology to anyone.) Cobb likens the Disruptors opening to a blind date. “We bring programmers into a gallery space, and creatives into a technology space,” she says. The ventures include A Voice for the Innocent, a nonprofit platform for victims of sex abuse; Girl Develop It, teaching women to create software; and We Have Become Vikings, an Over-the-Rhine brandery.
Second, She Blinded Me with Science at Northside’s Thunder-Sky Inc. The formula for the show reads like this: Start with one 1980s song, add a dream about artist Pam Kravetz, include Antonio “Art Thing” Adams and mix in Young Frankenstein.
Toss in a dose of bad health news from a good friend, but quickly shake it up with a Ferris Bueller solution. The result: Homosapien Juice. Raise a bottle of the imaginary potion to “The end of stupid cancer.”
To different degrees, both exhibits explore how technology conceals, confounds and empowers the human spirit. Disruptors uses art to showcase entrepreneurs and tech gurus, while Thunder-Sky’s artists are adopting roles as entrepreneurs, scientists and wizards.
For all the silliness of She Blinded Me with Science, curator Bill Ross says, “This show has taken on such a deeper meaning than I ever thought possible.”
The inspiration began with Ross hearing Thomas Dolby’s “She Blinded Me with Science,” then dreaming about Kravetz in a chemistry lab. After Ross and Kravetz met to brainstorm, Adams pulled out the Young Frankenstein soundtrack and started envisioning black-and-white storyboard paintings about transforming into mad scientists. For staging and mechanical assistance, Ross called Matthew Waldeck Sr., father of a Thunder-Sky artist and a “gadget/garbage-picker genius,” in Ross’ words.
Then came bad news. Waldeck’s wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. The shock prompted the group to pause and determine the purpose of the art lab. Both Ross and Kravetz lost their mothers to cancer, and gallery inspiration Raymond Thunder-Sky died of the disease. Adams had the answer. His “Homosapien Juice,” formerly for fighting bullies, would be remixed to cure cancer. Eureka!
Waldeck will direct a spin-art station where images of cancer cells get obliterated by paint. Kravetz is making eight quilted dolls that whirl atop vintage hand beaters. (The quantity references Kravetz’s age when her mom died.) “What would happen if we spliced humans with animals with machines?” Kravetz and her creations ask.
Though we’ve been blinded with science, both shows celebrate people first. “Gadgets come and go,” says Cobb, “but people never become obsolete.” QR codes already are kitsch, nearly ready to be cast away with the ’80s computer monitors that will be stacked inside the AEC. So in addition to his QRtifacts, Griga will show uncoded portraits of mentors he refers to as “my personal disruptors,” including Prairie gallery owner David Rosenthal and DAAP professor Jane Alden Stevens. Cobb calls them “the people who encouraged (Griga) to be experimental and innovative, to do disruptive things in his own right in the darkroom.”
“Embracing innovation is not optional,” Cobb concludes. “Art and technology are married. Disruptors is a renewal of vows, where fine art photography celebrates the innovative spirit to which it owes its origins.”
Both shows open with a reception 6-10 p.m. Friday. SHE BLINDED ME WITH SCIENCE will be up through June 8 at Thunder-Sky Inc., 4573 Hamilton Ave., Northside, raymondthundersky.org. DISRUPTORS will be on display through May 24 at Artisans Enterprise Center, 27 W. Seventh St., Covington, wearedisruptors.com.