Brides of Frankenstein: The Marriage of Art and Technology
Among many other things, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is about the ambiguities of creativity. Implicitly the novel asks: “When do human creativity and the passion to investigate the unknown contribute to creation as a whole? When do they become dangerous and destructive?” These questions are as relevant today as they were in Shelley’s time. Maybe even more so.
Thanks to contemporary technologies, we are rapidly evolving into post-biological beings, consciously shaping our own evolution. Hybrids of living tissue and metal, we increasingly incorporate machinery, synthetic chemicals, inorganic materials, and electronic information into our bodies and environment, and an endless stream of electronically mediated sounds and images into our sensibilities. We have intense personal relationships with electronic and digital devices. We share our world with entities that may be intelligent yet are unconscious, not exactly alive yet not actually dead, quasi-organic and quasi-inorganic. We live with robots, cyborgs, clones, genetically modified animals and plants, and proliferating mutations. Thanks to reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization and cloning, our understanding of “natural” reproduction is all screwed up.
Technology changes us and our perceptions even as we invent and incorporate more and more of it into our selves. Our notions of what it means to be human are challenged daily, a situation that is both exhilarating in its potential possibilities and deeply troubling. Popular films like The Matrix trilogy, Blade Runner, the Terminator series, and Robocop reflect our culture’s fascination with these issues, and our ambivalence about them.
These are the themes Marcia Tanner, curator of Brides of Frankenstein, the new exhibition at the San Jose Museum of Art, will explore as she discusses the process, challenges and opportunities presented via this provocative exhibition.
Marcia Tanner is an independent curator and writer who lives and works in Berkeley, California.
The former executive director of the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, she began her curatorial career after working in public relations and fund raising at the Exploratorium and Stanford University, and as Director of Public Relations at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
Tanner organized the controversial exhibition Bad Girls West at UCLA's Wight Art Gallery in 1994. More recent exhibitions include Shadow Play and Location Location at the San Jose ICA; We Look and See: Images of Childhood in Contemporary American Photography at the Berkeley Art Museum; Tom Marioni: Trees and Birds at Mills College Art Museum; Mi Casa es Su Casa at the Noga Gallery in Tel Aviv, Israel; Aural Sex and and Lineaments of Gratified Desire at the Catharine Clark Gallery, San Francisco; and Dromology: Ecstasies of Speed and LifeLike at New Langton Arts in San Francisco. Her current project is Brides of Frankenstein, an exhibition of work by women artists who use contemporary technologies to animate synthetic creatures, opening at the San Jose Museum of Art on July 31, 2005.
Tanner is the author of numerous catalogue essays. Her writings on art have appeared in Art+Text, Artweek, Cabinet, LIMN Magazine, VISIONS Quarterly, ArtNews, the San Francisco Chronicle, and other publications.
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