Critics’ Picks

Michel de Broin, Dead Star, 2008, batteries, urethane, and polystyrene, 19 1/2 x 12 x 10".

New York


199 Cook Street
September 25–October 25

Tethered is cyber-law expert Jonathan Zittrain’s term for objects hardwired to perform a single act; “Untethered” presents artworks by artists who unlock items from this proprietary use and redirect them toward aesthetic purposes. Organized by Eyebeam curatorial fellow Sarah Cook, the show includes Eyebeam residents and international artists who playfully transform everyday objects into participatory, otherworldly experiences through technology. The exhibition opens with Thomson & Craighead’s Unprepared Piano, 2004, a glossy Baby Grand piano that selects random parts of ensemble scores from MIDI files to perform its own music. In the experiential piece Nothing in It, 2008, JooYoun Paek invites the spectator to unzip an average-looking bag to discover startling sounds of alarms, dog yips, and sirens. Such defamiliarization of everyday objects is the basis of Kelly Dobson’s Blendie, 2003–2004, and Toastie, 2004, which require the audience to growl and whir, mimicking the sound of the appliance, to turn it on. An audio guide is available to help navigate which objects are participatory, including Max Dean’s So, this is it, 2001, which captures the viewer’s image on a clock face for a minute’s duration, and NOR_/D’s Shadow Project, 2008, in which wall panels follow the public’s movements. Some objects are rescued from technological obsolescence, like Michel de Broin’s Dead Star, 2008, an asteroid-like sculpture composed of used batteries. Others reprogram our relationships with machines, such as Joe Winter’s Xerox Astronomy and the Nebulous Object-Image Archive, 2008. Installed over the Xerox copier is a series of rotating lights, whose constellation-like patterns turn otherwise-speckled, black pages into something akin to astrophotographic plates. Such work moves beyond hacking, converting banal appliances into interactive, whimsical art objects.