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Pushing past space & time

By Amanda Krugliak

Digital artists Paul Kaiser, Marc Downie, and Shelley Eshkar comprise the OpenEnded Group.

They are explorers of odd sorts, pushing past the edges of space and real time, the confines of traditional media, and the more familiar forms of artistic expression. Incorporating their own innovative technology, the OpenEnded Group creates immersive digital compositions suggestive of a life after this one.

The OpenEnded Group exhibit will be displayed Dec. 1-Jan. 10 at the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Michigan. The exhibit moves to the Detroit Institute of the Arts in the spring.

The works trace human movement and serve as melancholy record of the remembrance of the loss. In the few moments offered out of the fray, the projections convey the weirdness of voyeurism. Wearing 3D glasses, sitting in a darkened room, we as viewers become weightless, unencumbered, unearthed. We watch ourselves and someone is watching us, contemplating our own small gestures and the grandeur of our fallen monuments.

The OpenEnded Group residency with the U-M Institute for the Humanities encompasses two installations:

1.) “Loops,” presented in the Institute for the Humanities gallery on central campus, is a 3D representation of Merce Cunningham’s solo dance for his hands. The choreography is accompanied by a recording of Cunningham reading excerpts from his journals. These sensory elements serve as artifact and capture the labyrinthine relationship between reminiscence, erasure, and re-invention.

Loops formally considers the challenge of preserving cultural memory and live performance in a digital age. Both Loops the dance and Loops the digital work exist in the present, never repeated exactly from one performance or installation to the next. Neither work can be truly captured by film or videotape. The Loops project invokes a living, breathing work. The hybrid of choreographed human movement and computer software allow for ongoing iterations and imaginings far into the future.

2.) “plant,” a 3D investigation of the abandoned Packard auto plant in Detroit,premieres in the Duderstadt Gallery on North Campus. Kaiser (the 2011 Kidder Resident in the Arts), Downie, and Eshkar shot over 10,000 images of every detail of the plant, then used these as raw material to create the completed composition. (see top photo)

The resulting twenty-foot projection captures the enormity of the site: the vastness of deserted corridors, the sheer drops of stairwells, and the incongruity of the open sky. Recorded ambient sound punctuates the piece with scattered signs of life and the unsettling randomness of events.

As outsiders stepping in, the artists archive the exquisite power of this urban ruin in a post-industrial age, as compelling as any mausoleum or cathedral.

The work further engages conversation regarding our attraction to ruin and our presumption of understanding, and raises unavoidable questions about art, responsibility, and community.

These exhibitions were made possible by the generosity of the 2011 Kidder Residency in the Arts and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Installations are free and open to the public.

Amanda Krugliak is curator at the Institute for the Humanities.