When you enter your local supermarket, the door will most likely slide open automatically, welcoming you as it senses your presence. There’s nothing remarkable about that, you’re accustomed to the simple technology of motion sensors. What is remarkable is that technological fixtures such as motion sensors have become so ubiquitous that we scarcely notice them anymore. They are a part of your daily routine, a simple and unnoticed interaction with technology. It is that subtle relationship between man and machine that new media artist Michael Theodore explores in his solo exhibition organism/mechanism currently showing at David B. Smith Gallery in Denver.
At the entrance of the gallery stands the monumental sculptural piece, endo/exo (2013). Spanning most of the length of the darkened lobby and rising from ceiling to floor, a flow of ambient LED light reflects off organic clumps of yarn creating a James Turrell-like illuminated atmosphere. However, moving closer to the piece, one is able to see how it departs from traditional light and space work when rows of rods begin rotating in response to the presence of the viewer. endo/exo is similar in design to many of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer’s pieces that also utilize motion sensors to create kinetic sculpture. However, Theodore’s work ventures further into traditional media in addition to the technological formats. This creates an environment that enhances sensual perception through the use of light and sound as well as movement.
Further in the gallery, there are ten abstract works on paper with a very organic feel to them. Upon closer inspection, it can be seen that the lines are actually perfectly inscribed, created by an automatic drawing machine programed to produce patterns so complex as to appear organic. Underneath these lines, Theodore plays with the tension between man and machine by hand-painting delicate color fields that glow through the machine made line work. In addition, there are three sharply produced digital videos with accompanying video stills. Each video is a digital environment that mimics water, ice and clouds, organic forms that become abstracted in a digital world. They were created using software, but there is something organic and comforting about watching the gently oscillating waves of a digital ocean or a spinning cloud-like formation.
All of the works in the show explore the synthesis between the machine made and organic forms. However, it is when Theodore is creating immersive interactive environments that the artist is at his best. By blending technological tools with our biological perceptions, Theodore is opening up a world of new possibilities within the viewer/object relationship.