Future Species

D.U.M.B.O. Arts Center


In the corner of the D.U.M.B.O. Arts Center on a small pedestal sits a video monitor. Across its screen flash alarming images, the product of artist Istav Kantor’s pessimistic vision of future human sexuality entitled “The Trinity Session Video.” Figures scantily clothed in wires, keyboards, and aluminum gyrate to the rhythm of discordant mechanical sounds. Their faces masked, they interact by lightly touching the dials and keys strapped to each others’ genitalia. They are completely isolated, lost in worlds of technologically enhanced pleasure. Bathed in steam, the figures thrust, arch, vomit, and climax, their images interspersed with those of corporate logos.

The video is part of Future Species, a group show of Canadian and New York artists, curated by David Liss of the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art in Toronto, that offers a vision of what evolution may bring for humankind. Kantor’s piece succeeds despite the banality of its message due to the intensity and vitality of its staging. Much of the work in the show does not fare as well in grappling with the exhibition’s weighty theme. Fred Fleisher reassembles plastic children’s dolls, giving human heads to android and animal bodies. One turns its head from side to side; another is wired to a monitor, which records whatever is in its static line of sight. The rest sit motionless. These synthetic creatures are as cute as the original dolls, but do little to fire the imagination. Unlike Kantor’s video, Fleicher’s themes of surveillance and mutation go untouched by formal inventiveness.

Eduardo Cervantes inserts a human touch into the electronic world of Future Species with his careful impasto painting of Venetian Cyborg’s checkered surface. Out of this mesh emerges a walking robot whose small head, weapon-like hands and awkward feet make him both humorous and threatening. Cervantes’s care in handling is touching compared to the cool, impersonal attitude most of the show’s artists take toward their subjects.

Karma Clarke-Davis also exhibits a painter’s feel for pattern and layering in her DVD projection “In Space,” which combines animation, computer effects, and video imagery to narrate the life of a computer virus. Some of her images are startling and novel, such as her virtual cockroach superimposed on a Persian rug pattern to symbolize the formation of a virus.

Future Species is a colorful show that excites through the integration of diverse media. But the well-spaced work sometimes seems one-sided. Its overall posture in view of humanity’s future is one of resignation before the onslaught of technology. Although there is much evidence to reinforce the legitimacy of this standpoint, it is dissatisfying to see it set forth uncontested in an art exhibition.

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