Art & Technology #18: Art + Technology Initiative at LACMA
Steps toward exploring the relationship between human and technology
Online communities are suddenly buzzing about the game of Go and AlphaGo, an artificial intelligence A.I. program developed by Deep Mind, a subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., the holding company of Google. As of March 13th, 2016, AlphaGo won three consecutive games against Go grandmaster Lee Se-dol, dominating the match to the shock and amazement of spectators.
Google-owned company Boston Dynamics, which came into prominence with the demonstration of a four-legged walking robot and Atlas, a bipedal humanoid robot, also released a shocking video footage recently. The video of a robot walking upright on a snowy field independently without a power cable stirred various responses ranging, from awe that a robot can now walk on snow better than a human, to concern that the era of robots like T-800 from the movie Terminator is upon us.
Combination of capital and technology developed by large companies is producing results beyond imagination that could bring out both the potential and risks of technological advancement. Perhaps it is time we moved away from the either/or approach in looking at the question of control between human and technology, and sought out new avenues for exploring this issue. One of these areas is where technology meets art.
Art + Technology Initiative at LACMA
The ongoing art and technology projects in Los Angeles County Museum of Art (hereafter “LACMA”) are the most notable of the attempts to explore the relationship between art and technology. As a museum in Los Angeles, LACMA has embraced and studied various cultures in the Pacific regions. It is also exploring a new thread of convergence and combination of art and technology, which reflects the characteristic of its location adjacent to Silicon Valley and site of video technology industries.
LACMA’s Art + Technology Lab (hereafter “A+T Lab”), which has been on the way since 2013, exemplifies this effort. First operated by LACMA curator Maurice Tuchman from 1967 to 1971, the program was not a mere corporate sponsorship program, but one intended to broaden the public view on science and technology and pave the way for art combined with technology, by creating a venue of collaboration for artists and companies. In 2013, close to the 50th anniversary of the A&T Program, LACMA decided to reopen this channel for technology and art to meet, and established the A+T Lab at the Balch Research Library that was then renovated at LACMA.
At the A+T Lab, about thirty artists and technology staff are collaborating on interconnected projects with support from IT and aerospace companies such as Accenture, Google, and SpaceX. A request for proposal to select projects to support is sent out every year; the selected artists are given grants and, in-kind support from the companies in the high-tech industry, and studio space if needed. The pieces or results created through the projects are disclosed by interviews, forums, and exhibitions, and shared by multiple channels after a year from the launch of the project.
In 2015, the museum announced Hyundai Motor as the presenting sponsor of the A+T Lab. The lab is now part of The Hyundai Project: Art + Technology at LACMA, a joint initiative exploring the convergence of art and technology.
Art + Technology: study point of new relationship between art and technology, and art and companies
In 1966, then LACMA curator Maurice Tuchman suggested A&T, the Art and Technology Program, which was planned and launched to enquire into the new relationship among art, companies, and technology, and to rethink the direction of the relationship by searching for and selecting artists who can have a productive influence on the industry.
Tuchman started to look for companies based in California that could provide financial or technical support for the artists. In 1967, 37 of 250 companies he had contacted were willing to participate, and 40 companies entrusted the museum to advance the support. Tuchman and the museum committee selected many artists in various scenes including American and European arts, music, and literature. Artists showed great interest in this project: they continued to apply for the program even after the artists for the project was officially announced.
After selecting the artists, Tuchman and his colleague, curator Jane Livingston, carefully matched the selected artists with participating companies so that this art support project would not to end up a mere sponsorship program. While actively preventing direct influence from the sponsor companies providing financial or technical support for the artists, they asked for the companies’ understanding by explaining the effect of exterior influence on creativity.
Tuchman and Livingston also planned out the project meticulously, from the planning to the physical realization of the projects by the artists, while displaying the results of the project in the U.S. Pavilion at the Osaka World Exposition1 1970 so that the project could leave the confines of a museum program and reach a broader audience of companies as well as individuals.
Famous artists at that time, such as Andy Warhol, Robert Irwin, Roy Lichtenstein, James Turrell, and Claes Oldenburg, had participated in this project to make art with companies(Rand Corporation, Hudson Institute, Garrett Corporation, etc.) from various industries including aerospace, technology, and mechanics, and the results were introduced at LACMA and the Pavilion at the Expo. This program has left its mark in the areas of art and technology as an example of a full-fledged system that promoted the relationship between technology and art, and the synergy that can be generated from the combination of the two. The impact and attempts of this very project is now represented again at LACMA with the rise of technologies.
Currently, last year’s (Year 2) Art + Technology Grant artists Nonny de la Peña, Alex Rivera, Cayetano Ferrer, Jonathon Keats, Nana Oforiatta-Ayim, Matthew Shaw, and William Trossell of ScanLAB are working on their projects. They were selected for their proposals to LACMA on works that deal with technological issues today such as the Internet of Things, biological data, augmented reality, environment, and interaction between human and technology.
Suppose while everyone is running fast to techno music with a fast beat, a different tune interferes. It can be perceived as disturbance that slows down the pace, but also a factor that allows us to see the scenery we missed. As the speed goes up, the perspective becomes narrower. In some way, uneconomical or peculiar attempts can point out an important blind spot in the logics of development.
Furthermore, when companies and art that, move at different speeds, meet each other, another possibility we have been blind to could suddenly catch our eyes. In this society of technology-dependency, where we are overwhelmed by a deluge of technological innovations beyond our imaginings, the meeting of art and technology can have extraordinary meaning. This is what makes one look forward to the results of the program launched by the collaboration between LACMA, one of the institutions of art, and companies of the technology industry. ■ with ARTINPOST
Maurice Tuchman Cover Image of 'A Report on the Art and Technology Program' of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art 1967-1971 New York: Viking, 1971
Jonathon Keats modeling a pair of sunglasses of his design whose lenses dilate in time with his breathing
Photo ⓒ Jonathon Keats
Claes Oldenburg Installation view of <Giant Icebag> at LACMA's <Art and Technology> exhibition in 1971 (Museum Associates / LACMA)
Andy Warhol project 'Rain Machine' for the Art & Technology Program at LACMA, 1969-1970
Photo ⓒ Tami Komai Courtesy Museum Associates-LACMA, Photographic Archives
Random International <Rain room> 2012
The museum of Modern Art, New York, NY ⓒ Random International Photo courtesy Random International
Former LACMA curators Jane Livingston and Maurice Tuchman discuss the ganzfeld concept with artists Robert Irwin and James Turrell The term was initially used to describe the state of blindness experienced by arctic explorers in whiteour and later by pilots flying through fog
Photograph ⓒ Malcolm Lubliner
James Turrell <Light Reignfall> 2011
Gift of Hyndai Motor as part of The Hyundai Project: Art+Technology at LACMA in honor of the museum's 50th anniversary ⓒ James Turrell
Photo ⓒ Florian Holzherr
Robert Irwin <Miracle Mile> 2013
Los Angeles County Museum of Art Gift of Hyundai Motor as part of The Hyundai Project: Art+Technology at LACMA in honor of the museum's 50th anniversary ⓒ Robert Irwin / Artists Rights Society(ARS), New York
Photo ⓒ 2015 Philipp Scholz Rittermann