As part of our ongoing partnership with KQED Arts, today we bring you a review of Electronic Pacific at SOMArts in San Francisco. Author Roula Seikaly notes that the exhibition provides, “a moment to consider what we say, how we say it, and to whom, as globalization propels us toward an uncertain future.” This review was originally published on July 24, 2013.
In the trailer for his 2006 film Babel, director Alejandro González Iñárritu includes a voiceover, one reciting a well-known passage from the Book of Genesis that tells of a unified language and pervasive understanding that man enjoyed prior to the Flood. That clarity, that point of agreement was troubled when dissimilar languages — understood here as a metaphor for different identities and interests — were introduced and the disparate tribes with which we associate were formed. Iñárritu’s inclusion of the voiceover is a predictable cinematic trope, but it raises issues about what and how we communicate, and how that dialogue is often overwhelmed by other concerns. Electronic Pacific, which opened at SOMArts on July 11, takes up the increasingly digitized exchange of art and language in the work of eighteen artists that span the complex divide between countries around the Pacific Rim.
The main gallery at SOMArts is not the easiest space to curate, given the institution’s broad mission and it’s unusual architectural footprint. It could easily look or feel crowded with multiple 3D objects vying for viewer’s attention. For Electronic Pacific, gallery curator and director Justin Hoover creates a very manageable experience, one that permits audiences to move through the space without the worrying sense of tripping over or backing into the objects on display.