Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Four Thousand Blocks

Ellie Ga, Projection Harbor, 2013
The artist Ellie Ga has created works out of her experiences in the North Pole and more recently off the coast of Alexandria, at the site of the underwater excavation of the famous Pharos Lighthouse--one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. She's interested in facts and information. She recycles information and makes art out of it. As part of her recent show at Bureau, Four Thousand Blocks, she created, for example, a letter press print of a dialogue between the King of Egypt and the god Thoth about the pros and cons of the gifts the god is contemplating giving to humankind. Thoth says, “ I can’t think of anything bad to say about writing. It will make humans wiser and improve their memories. The recipe for memory has been discovered.” In this case the king appears to be wiser than his divinely inspired counterpart when he responds, “What you have discovered is not a recipe for memory, but the drug of reminding. With your invention they will be taught, but they will not be wiser.” It’s nice know that even the ancients were worried that technological advances could result in the attrition of certain human faculties—as we do today in considering how certain kinds of thinking have become the province of the computer. The show was composed of a three channel video related to the artist’s experience of the Pharos excavation which also involved underwater dives. One screen is primarily a dark room in which images are developing. A central screen is a documentary involving the process by which the artist gained information about the excavation and the third is simply compartments filled with metallic type out of which Ga picks letters to create a story. It’s explained that a good type setter can decipher the sentence that is being created by simply watching the movement of hands between these compartments. Synchronicity might be one word to describe what Ellie Ga is attempting. Big data is another, but the net result is to winnow and exhibit the affect of historical enormity on the human imagination.

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