American Visionary Art Museum founder and director Rebecca Alban Hoffberger calls the museums’ new exhibition, “Human, Soul & Machine: The Coming Singularity,” opening on Oct. 5, one of the most important and most prescient ones AVAM has ever developed.
Although the multiple issues raised by technology’s ever-growing impact on our society are the subjects of many creative projects, Hoffberger pointed out that recent events — such as the gathering of journalists’ phone records, secret drone strikes and the recent chemical attack allegedly carried out by the Syrian government against its own citizens — have only made the exhibition more timely and the questions it raises more critical.
“We didn’t want to make the exhibit fearsome,” said Hoffberger, who curated “Human, Soul & Machine.” “In fact, we bent over backwards to show the positive effects of technology. But as with all of our exhibitions, the themes we explore are not good or bad, just powerful.”
In addition to the issues of privacy, surveillance and chemical warfare, the exhibition also examines technology’s impact on employment and manufacturing, longevity and health, farming and food, creative invention and entertainment through the work of more than 40 visionary artists, futurists and inventors, including artist, composer and cyborg activist Neil Harbisson.
Born with achromatopsia, a condition that does not allow him to see colors, Harbisson, since 2003, has been able to “hear colors” and to “perceive colors outside the ability of human vision” with the assistance of the “eyeborg,” a cybernetic eye he helped to develop, which is permanently attached to his head. Since the attachment of his eyeborg, Harbisson, 31, has created “sonochromatic” art-work that explores the relationship between color and sound and the relationship between bodies and cybernetics. In 2010, he co-founded the Cyborg Foundation for research, creation and promotion of products related to extending and creating new senses and perceptions by applying technology to the human body.
The exhibition also includes, among other works, Kenny Irwin Jr.’s “Robotmas” installation, a selection of Alex Grey’s Sacred Mirrors, O.L. Samuels’ 7-foot-tall “Godzilla,” Adam Kurtzman’s full-sized “Bride of Frankenstein,” Rigo 23’s drone-protesting drawings, Allen Christian’s life-sized “Piano Family” and Fred Carter’s wood carvings.
“I want people to be literate and informed about how much information is out there,” said Hoffberger. “When people think, how can the government possibly be listening to every phone call they make, [they should know that] we now have technology to store so much more data than ever before. People worry about this, but we are in a time where anything that can be encrypted can be decrypted. If the government is doing things wrong, it will be harder for them to get away with it.”
The hope, she said, is that we can harness all of this technology and intellectual capacity to create a better world.
More At Museums
While the AVAM zeros in on what’s new in the world, the Maryland Science Center travels back in time with “Mummies of the World: The Exhibition,” which opens on Sept. 28. The exhibition features the largest collection of real mummies ever assembled from Europe, Asia, Oceania and Ancient Egypt, some as old as 6,500 years. The exhibition was developed by American Exhibitions Inc. The corporation’s president is Jewish Baltimore native Marc Corwin. For more information, visit mdsci.org or mummiesoftheworld.com.
Opening on Sept. 8, the Baltimore Museum of Art presents “Morris Louis Unveiled,” featuring the work of the late Morris Louis (born Morris Louis Epstein), a founder of the Washington Color School (a visual-art movement of the late 1950s through the mid-1960s). Louis was born, raised and educated in Baltimore. The exhibition includes more than 25 works, including several large-scale paintings, a number of rarely seen drawings and related works by Klee, Miro, Matisse, Picasso and Pollack, all artists who influenced
Louis’ work. For more information, visit artbma.org.
The Jewish Museum of Maryland opens its fall exhibition, “Passages Through Fire: Jews in the Civil War,” on Oct. 13. The exhibition, originated by the American Jewish Historical Society and the Yeshiva University Museum, explores how the Civil War impacted American Jewish life, incorporating rarely seen objects, photographs and letters and three original short films. “Passages Through Fire” also provides informal education opportunities for youngsters with four hands-on activity stations. For more information, visit jewishmuseummd.org.