Now through April, the sprawling, rough-and-tumble brick spaces of Minneapolis’ Soap Factory are filled with installation projects by five artists—the Art(ists) on the Verge, as it were. It is not quite fair to consider Art(ists) on the Verge as a single exhibition, as there is no curatorial or artistic conceit to cement the various projects into a cohesive entity. The works on view are the result of a yearlong mentorship project that pairs young Minnesota media artists with mentors for feedback and critique. Art(ists) on the Verge presents these five installations as evidence of a process that aims to encourage work at the intersection of art and technology, and the five artists take very different approaches. From analogies between the physical and digital delivery of messages, to the astrological landscape at the birth of Christ, each of the projects takes on a subject and expounds on it in a physically expansive way. While not all of the projects seem to have reached their final states (some could use a push further in their current direction, and others a tug back), the intensity of their interaction with research, process, and materials is evident.
Perhaps the most inviting installation is Alison Hiltner’s dangling Survival Tactics (2014). Hung in clumps from the Soap Factory’s high ceilings, Hiltner’s semi-translucent vines drape toward the ground. Coated in fleshy silicone, these electrified vines buzz and move very slightly. Visitors are able to feel the subtle mechanical drone through their fingers and hands as they make their way through the vines. Experientially enthralling (viewers at the exhibition’s opening seemed to gravitate toward these charged tentacles), Hiltner’s installation conveys her interest in botanical communication—the fact that plants “speak” with one another through ultrasonic vibrations and other means. Through electrifying these silicone filaments, Hiltner successfully anthropomorphizes them, creating a slightly eerie but enticing ambiance. Though it’s currently hung in distinct clumps in the Soap Factory’s space, it is easy to imagine this project having an even greater impact when installed in a smaller space, capitalizing on density to create a more charged milieu.