Critics’ Picks

Katja Novitskova, Mamaroo (Storm Time 3D Embryo), 2016, electronic baby swing, polyurethane resin, epoxy foam clay, wall fixtures, robotic bugs, 3-D print, 31 x 28 x 33".

Los Angeles

“up the river down the tide”

Various Small Fires
812 North Highland Avenue
November 8, 2018–January 12, 2019

Winbot W830 window-cleaning robots slide across the clear glass of two framed photographs, suctioned to the picture planes. In Image Life, 2016, a man carries a young girl on his shoulders, their white face paint amplifying their joyous grins. On the opposite wall, Serenity Now, 2016, depicts a figure sinking into mud, the head nearly submerged, hands holding a DSLR aloft. These images, made by the artist collective DIS, emulate the slick finish and satisfying immediacy of stock photos, but with a disturbing, opaque edge. As the Winbots whir, Katja Novitskova’s hacked baby rocker, Mamaroo (Storm Time 3D Embryo), 2016, shifts back and forth endlessly––its cushioned cradle has been disassembled and replaced by a clear resin form printed with a swirling pink-and-gold pattern. What once soothed a baby to sleep now sways like a carnivorous plant from a digital planet. Serenity now, but what later? Functional camera, drowning operator.

This is an exhibition concerned with ways of seeing the present through the lens of the marketed future. For all its techno-sheen, it plunges directly into the mainstream of art history, probing the visual and physical features of products to ask how a period understands itself and its direction. The work is spread across two rooms: a project gallery with the robots, and a main space containing a stylish living area. Homey and alienating as only showrooms can be, the latter space, complete with edible hydroponic plants that are watered by their chic modules, has been transformed by Christopher Kulendran Thomas into New Eelam, 2018, a prototype for a real estate startup that will allow globe-trotting professionals to find temporary residences in cities around the world—places for the digital placeless, homes with automatic updates. This is a smartshow.