David & Lizzie Zucker Saltz
January 9 - March 3, 2002
The Sweeney Art Gallery is delighted to present the interactive sculptural installations of artists David and Lizzie Zucker Saltz in their first collaborative West Coast exhibition. The Athens, Georgia-based couple draw from their individual backgrounds -- for David, theater and technology, and for Lizzie, interactive sculptural installations --and collaboratively create complex and engaging technology-driven sculptural installations.
The four pieces included in this exhibition represent an extension of the artists joint interest in merging the traditional worlds of theater and sculpture with the nascent field of computer-driven, interactive, and mechanized art events. As New Media artists, the Saltzes believe it is important to engage technology only insofar as doing so will enable the audience to engage with worthwhile content. For this reason the technology that drives their pieces is rarely visible, except when its presence adds to the works meaning. They thus de-emphasize the "techie factor" (often a considerable distraction to viewers of technologically-driven art), and enhance the dramatic impact of the art experience by involving the viewer as participant in time-based activities.
In the complex interactive sculptural installation, Vent, 2000 (56 x 80 x 160 inches), three modified ventriloquists dummies, each a stereotype -- the urban African American, the staunchly Anglo male, and the primped Jewish woman -- sit in semi-circle formation on a stage. With hyper-extended necks, their heads are alienated from their stuffed bodies. The viewer stands in front of a vintage radio microphone and a mere sound prompts one of the puppets to chatter. As soon as the viewers emission ceases, the other two puppets attack the first with hate speech; the derogatory statements are culled from various web sites, which are displayed on a monitor. The piece continues as two participants keep up the dialogue with the dummies, defending their dummy as they wish. After an interval, a different dummy is activated by microphone input, with the two other dummies attacking that character.* To bear witness and also serve as the "trigger" for the activation and derision of the dummies is startlingly disarming. Indeed, the interactive multi-media and technological nature of the piece renders it performative in that it requires and functions only with the active participation of the viewer. (* excerpts from Art Papers, December, 2000, p. 34; review by Christina Kline).
Entrances and Exits, 2000, (85 x 33 x 56 inches) is a sculptural animation piece that performs a three-minute play based on Samuel Becketts short text "Come and Go." The play is performed cyclically with the characters trapped in a relentless perpetual motion machine. Within a puppet theater-like proscenium opening, viewers see three images that move up and down to simulate characters. The images have bas-reliefs of the three female characters, all performed by one actress. Entrances and Exits addresses issues of mortality and vanity, and challenges notions of individuality.
"Animate Objects" also includes The Breathing Crab, 2000, (30 x 19 x 19 inches) a slightly disturbing and clever illustration of the dependency of an automated being on the presence of the viewer. And, in the newest piece, 10021190, 2001, the viewer is able to activate a reversal of the destruction of the World Trade Center. As long as the participant presses on a handprint, a video montage of the destruction of the WTC plays in reverse, momentarily satisfying the futile yearning to reverse time and return to a world prior to 9/11. The instant the participant releases, the image snaps back to ruins.
The Saltzes challenge the viewer to form a relationship with each piece, to go beyond the boundaries of personal experience, reaching outward to an understanding about the larger world, and inward to an understanding of ones own essence.
Lizzie Zucker Saltz is an artist, critic, and curator who teaches in the Womens Studies Department at the University of Georgia, Athens, and presently writes for Art Papers Magazine. Her solo work is held in collections including the Portland Museum of Art, Maine and Barnard College, New York, NY. She and David were featured in "Collaborating Couples" at the Georgia Museum of Art, 2000. Although involved with each others ventures for some time, David and Lizzie began to collaborate explicitly in 1995 when creating FLIECO: The Fluid Identity Eletronic Companion.
Since 1997, David Zucker Saltz is Assistant Professor of Drama and Interactive Performance at University of Georgia; previously he taught at SUNY, Stonybrook, New York, Stanford University, Palo Alto, CA and the College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, VA. David has extensively explored the use of computer technology in his own work as a director and a teacher, and is the founding director of the Interactive Performance Laboratory at UGA. The "Dramatic Media" program at UGA is the only MFA program of its kind in the world.
All images are copyrighted by the artists.
Sweeney Art Gallery
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University of California, Riverside
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