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Art, Interrupted: new exhibit opens at Mills College Art Museum

Phillipe Cunningham

With cheese cubes and wine in hand, art-lovers packed the Mills College Art Museum for the opening reception of “We Interrupt Your Program” on Wednesday night.

The multimedia show featured 14 female artists with an emphasis on blending science, art and the latest technologies as a presentation of their perspectives on the “conditioned patriarchal society.”

The exhibit included computer-manipulated video, digital animation, video installation, interactive sculpture and photography works.

“These artists’ works are feminist inflected and influenced, but do not have a traditional feminist approach in terms of what has been labeled as ‘feminist art,'” Marcia Tanner, guest curator of the exhibit said.

With such works as Maria Frieberg’s “AM DC,” the message was sometimes conveyed in a subtle tone.

The work featured two men in suits sitting in a Washington D.C. cafe, engrossed in their newspapers and disregarding the voice of Edith Piaf on the café’s sound system, “pouring out truths of the heart,” according to the program. Tanner called the piece the “most amazing portrait of our patriarchal society.”

“AM DC” was displayed on a large television screen in which two sets of headphones were connected for viewers to hear the accompanying audio.

Tanner’s excitement about every work in the exhibit was palpable.

“To ask which [work] is my favorite is like asking me which of my children do I love more!” Tanner exclaimed.

“We Interrupt Your Program” is exclusively being shown at Mills College with no prospective stops after the exhibition concludes on March 16, 2008.

“I immediately knew this was exactly where this exhibit belonged; on an all women’s college campus,” she said. Many Mills students attended the reception.

“This is really good curation,” said Alexa Hall, junior in Intermedia Arts. “It’s nice to have this tech stuff to update the space.”

A work by Jean Shin, “TEXTiles,” had a lot of interested spectators due to the long sheet of computer keys, which ended slightly raised so visitors could type onto the LCD screen.

“TEXTiles” had 22,528 recycled computer keys and 112 custom keypads.

It included an LCD screen, which displayed what visitors typed on the keyboards.

“The process of making it was very labor-intensive. I was fortunate to make it during a residency at The Fabric Workshop and Museum,” Shin said.

She had several assistants helping her in the process, which took two years.

Assistants helped clean recycled keys and with the construction of the work.

“Essentially, I conceptualized the work and I had amazing assistants on board to help me,” Shin explained.

The inspiration for this work came from her history in textiles and fabric construction.

“Technology is alienated from the body, but yet we touch the keyboard nearly everyday. Textile is essential in our everyday lives. I wanted to bring together all of these elements in this piece,” said Shin.

She explained the core concept was the connection between the textiles, which are so essential to human lives, and the technology that surrounds us, especially the technology that has been thrown away.

According to the description of the work, “Textile suggests that the web of human interaction, like the world wide web itself, is open-ended, inclusive, and potentially infinite.”

To be included in an exhibit featuring only women felt “very natural” for Shin and that “the rest of society should catch up” to that notion.

Shin explains that in society, art and technology are usually male dominated.

The female artists brought together have “added humor and humanization of those things.”

Future events in relation to the exhibit include a conversation on Feb. 20 at 7:30 p.m. with Mills College Visiting Artist Samara Halperin, Anne Walsh and Gail Wight.

There will also be a lecture by Marisa Olson, an artist also featured in the exhibition, on March 12 at 7:30 p.m.

All programs are to be held in Danforth Lecture Hall in the Art Building near the Art Museum.