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Charlotte Kent

Charlotte Kent is Associate Professor of Visual Culture at Montclair State University, an Editor-at-Large for the Brooklyn Rail, and an arts writer.

A Word or Two on Art and Technology

The words we bring to art intend, at best, to translate the perceptual realm into the linguistic, anchoring sensation through definition. But, as we all know, that often doesn’t occur. The well known essay, “International Art English” by Alix Rule and David Levine skewers that premise, as does Tom Wolfe’s The Painted Word (1975) nearly forty years earlier, and a decade before that Susan Sontag’s “Against Interpretation” resisted language’s simulacrum of art. So on, down the line. And yet, words also serve to support, promote, highlight, associate, and adore the art they describe.

In Conversation

Christian Marclay with Charlotte Kent

On the occasion of Christian Marclay’s exhibition at the Centre Pompidou, the artist sat down with Charlotte Kent for a wide ranging conversation on the various entry points to his work. In the edited version below, they discuss Marclay’s long-standing fascination with doors and transitions—obscure, improvised, and ongoing.

In Conversation

Herbert W. Franke with Charlotte Kent

Ultimately, the point is not to leave new technologies, which are value-neutral to begin with, to technocrats, commerce and the military complex alone. Art is also part of our society, and it should deal with the tools of today’s society.

Rita Ackermann: Mama '19

Her whole approach is an impressive refutation of a technical world. The gesture of the hand, with all its imprecision, is so very human. The messiness is a surprising oasis.

Hernan Bas: Developing TiME LiFE

Amidst the rise of online viewing rooms for shows we might not otherwise see, Lehmann Maupin made the decision to provide us backgrounds to shows we have. In Developing TiME LiFE, the gallery presents studies (available for sale) as well as information from Hernan Bas about the process for his most recent fall 2019 show.

Mulyana & Iwan Effendi: Jumping the Shadow

The charming critters by Iwan Effendi and Mulyana presented in Jumping the Shadow, curated by John Silvis at Sapar Contemporary, invite reflections on our empathy towards lives (that only seem to be) beyond our own.

Gina Beavers: The Life I Deserve

The lighting for Gina Beavers’s exhibit The Life I Deserve is Instagram perfect. That seems only fitting for paintings based on social media posts and aware that they will return there as #art #museum #artselfie or even, in a potential throwback to 2015, #museumselfie. The artist’s #Foodporn series from 2014 gets particular attention, though the newer series based on makeup tutorials had some snapping pics as well. All this begs the question, what are we looking at?

Julia Scher: American Promises

Motherhood is a role partly defined by its expectation to survey, observe, and discern, so the work also shows the shifting roles of surveillance within familial

Musical Thinking: New Video Art and Sonic Strategies

Musical Thinking doesn’t simply beat the drum of aesthetics as politics, but provides a context in which to remember that politics are aesthetic and, as will shortly be evident with another election cycle, provide many a song and dance. Grayson’s curatorial sensibility tunes difficult content into a poignant show representing the diversity of this nation that some of its representatives insist on denying.

Auriea Harvey: Year Zero

Year Zero offers a compelling argument for dismissing distinctions between physical and digital art as Auriea Harvey's digital and material practice merge in this impressive body of sculptural works.

Convergent Evolutions: The Conscious Body of Work

At stake in the new Pace group exhibition Convergent Evolutions are the questions of who gets to be seen, when, and how. The exhibition of 17 artists who range across 60 years, multiple media, and assorted styles brings together poignant contemporary concerns about representation.

The Game of Life - Emergence in Generative Art

Moving past familiar questions about art, machines, autonomy, and authorship that have been around since the invention of photography, the generative artworks on view through Kate Vass’s website offers a chance to think about our respective starting points, the steps we take, and how rules apply in this game of life.

William Corwin: Green Ladder

Ladders appear across spiritual traditions linking the lower and upper, the earthly and material with the everlasting and transcendent.

The Tree of Life

Online exhibits provide a different viewing experience. If all these works were in the Lower East Side gallery, you might walk in, look around, occasionally watch one of the time-based works, perhaps put on headphones for sound, and meander to the next piece. The online configuration asks for greater engagement, something that surprises many by requiring a conscious commitment to the work.

Gregg Bordowitz: I Wanna Be Well

There is a light touch here that nonetheless manages to be immersive. The retrospective is selective in its offerings, and though much is necessarily missing, there is no sense of lack, but rather encouragement to seek out more on your own.

Claudia Hart: The Ruins

Hart travels in hyperreality, thinking through media archeologies and post-photographic practices, but is also a draughtsperson and painter. All of this merges forcefully in bitforms’s exhibit, which recognizes the failures of so many Eurocentric utopias, and yet engages modernism in a way that releases any hold those artists, designers, political and cult leaders once had.

Mary Mattingly: Pipelines and Permafrost

Mary Mattingly’s recent photographs in Pipelines and Permafrost stitch together a story of geologic deep time for the imagination. The New York-based artist has always woven ecological concerns into her public works and photography practice, committed to helping audiences question how the land and water resources as well as the products and presumptions of our lives came to be.

The Archive to Come

In The Archive to Come, curators Clark Buckner and Carla Gannis invited artists to contribute a work of their choice that responded to “questions of loss, memorialization, crisis, and re-invention … questions about what we value and want to preserve as we work to recover from their ravages and build for the future.”

The Bardo: Unpacking the (un)Real

The seven artists included in this exhibition offer variations on the idea of digital sculpture, and through that format press against the fraught discourse of the un/real within digital art.

Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented, 1918–1939

The goal of MoMA’s Engineer, Agitator, Constructor: The Artist Reinvented, 1918–1939 is to showcase the ways that artists participated in spreading radical new ideas made urgent by World War I and the 1917 Russian Revolution. The exhibition largely focuses on activity in what would become the Soviet Bloc, as artists enthusiastically adopted new print and distribution technologies, and embraced a geometric, abstract aesthetic that dramatized their rejection of the decadent, bourgeois parlor.

David Reed: New Paintings

It is a cathedral to art, and Reed has produced altars to the art and history of painting. Only that makes them sound serious and stern, possibly boring, and these are not that. Most notably, there is humor throughout.

Manfred Mohr: A Formal Language

“Computer graphics is a young and new way of aesthetic communication; it integrates human thinking, mechanical handling, logic, new possibilities of drawing, and incorruptible precision of drawing—a new DUKTUS!” So wrote Manfred Mohr in 1971 celebrating this “duktus,” the Latin term for handwriting, also used in German to acknowledge the individual peculiarities of a medium or someone’s style.


As expressions of mortal transience, commodity culture, or composition, still lifes make us pause. Across photography, video, mixed reality, and a variety of digital arts, the 15 artists in Still/Live at the Katonah Museum of Art find new methods for modernizing the genre. Curator Emily Handlin brings together a selection of works that exhibit an interest in the history of still life in order to expand its range of meanings and expression for our own time.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

McCullers’s work evokes a sense of alienation—both from society and, crucially, from oneself. However, to many she also represents an enthusiastic, if not necessarily fully consummated, embrace of her own desires.

Robert Rauschenberg

This spring, the Rauschenberg Foundation partnered with Mnuchin Gallery and Gladstone Gallery to present two distinct but connected exhibitions that portray the lightness and irreverence that is integral to his works’ continued success.

Robert Morris: Monumentum 2015–2018

The figures falling off walls in Robert Morris. Monumentum 2015–2018, at Rome’s Galleria Nazionale, seem like an extension of the Baroque city’s architectural and sculptural tradition. The works in this show's situation in Rome provides a different set of perceptual relations than when the same body of work was displayed in New York.

Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art

The curators, Tina Rivers Ryan and Paul Vanouse, focus their broad agenda through four themes: the use of digital technologies for passive (but not always effective) surveillance, how identities are shaped by technology, the erasure of marginalized communities, and the active reassertion of control.

Art Story

Looking back, I think I started reading stories about art because I tired of eros and arate. In the wrath of The Iliad or Woolf’s The Waves, through the passion of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet or Nabokov’s Lolita, humanity’s highs and lows were exhausting.

Mary Ann Caws’s Mina Loy: Apology of Genius

Loy’s poetry is deftly woven across this biography, both to present life experiences in her own words, as well as highlight her extraordinary ability to turn language into insight.

Sasha Stiles’s Technelegy

We need works like Technelegy to help us mediate the complex relationship we have with technology—to go beyond the terror or shame that proliferates in media reports.

The Foundation for Contemporary Arts

Charlotte Kent profiles the Foundation for Contemporary Arts and finds the the venerable institution as nimble and necessary as ever.

Beyond the Janus-Faced Typologies of Art and Technology

This column aims to focus on art that engages technology as a medium or a topic. We live in a digital culture and I have found that I better understand the technologies I use, as well as what to reject, in no small part through the thoughtful efforts of artists. I’ve grasped the subtleties of coding and computational design by hearing about how artists struggle with it. I’ve reconsidered the history of art because it suddenly seems so strange that the last five hundred years of creative practice could be presented as if these artists were not responding to, discussing, and adopting technologies ranging from perspective, gross anatomy, printing, navigational charts, biological categories, camera obscuras, trains, electrification, photography, moving image, and here we start to get into the more recent technologies that are so easily disdained: television, computers, the internet, social media

Data/Body: Corpus and the Cloud Empire of our Lives

My last column addressed generative art, a practice in which artists often use data sets to create complex works about our world. But where does that data come from? And, more importantly, can the aestheticization of data ignore its historical context or the privacy issues of its contemporary context?

Glitching Time and Time-Based Media

Time is a socio-technological system with profound organizing qualities that feels, these days, exceedingly oppressive. There’s never enough time! For anything. Calendars are the earliest containing device with the purpose of determining a social order; the history of the Roman calendar reveals the role of international and national politics that play out across each new temporal infrastructure. Our temporal orders have been designed through the global proclamation of Greenwich Mean Time in 1884 by colonial empires, the apocalyptic anxiety provocations of the doomsday clock established in 1947, the insistent instant-ness of digital time since the 1970s exacerbated by strings of video chat meetings of the last couple years, and the frenetic branding of our social/professional lives demanded by transnational corporate technology’s mediation of everyone and everything, all the time. It’s a mess.

Painting, Protest and the Plural Potential of Web3

The last couple weeks have been dominated by conversations about political life alongside a slew of panels about our future with virtual spaces, most frequently called Web3 or the metaverse. Anxieties about both are appropriately rampant. Amidst this nail-biting, I was reminded how artists across media can shift the dialogue out of despair without launching into resolved utopian thinking.

Not for Nothing: A New Perspective from Peer to Peer

’Tis the season of giving, and artists—more than most—donate works for auctions and benefits to support schools, charities and institutions. They donate work that represents their hard earned labor in the name of exposure, by complicated requests from current collectors or supporters, and for the possibility of being brought into significant collections. For most, it’s a wary offering, aware that indifference even in this out-of-market context can nevertheless be a mark against their markets. As many have noted before, lawyers don’t donate their services nor doctors their treatments. What if it didn’t have to be this way?

Past and Present for a Creative Future

Two museum shows opened in February about art and technology that, combined, span the last seventy years and present some of the different discourses surrounding the convergence of these two fields. I’ll Be Your Mirror: Art and the Digital Screen, curated by Alison Hearst at The Modern Museum of Fort Worth presents nearly every contemporary medium from paintings and installations to games and face filters in an expansive exhibition of fifty artists across twelve sections touching on some of the major psycho-social outcomes of our mediated landscape. Coded: Art Enters the Computer Age 1952-1982, curated by Leslie Jones at LACMA includes prints, video, textiles and sculptural objects that admirably present a historical trajectory of artists’ experimentations with the possibilities of computational devices across those early years, when design limitations foregrounded composition and structure. Those constraints also contributed, occasionally, to a kind of didacticism, for which the field remains frequently derided.

Art’s Intelligence: AI and Human Systems

Though much attention has been given recently to certain artists’ experimentations with AI, best described and dismissed as spectacle (in the true Debord sense), any number of artists have challenged and even mocked the technology and its specious claims to neutral operating systems or unconditional utility.

A Language Cairn: Artists on Their Practice

Because this month I had the honor of acting as Guest Editor for the Critics Page, where I invited global curators and scholars to contribute a word they’d like to see or never see again in the discourse around art and technology, I thought I would develop this month’s column around the words that artists use and encounter about their practice—across media. So I asked them what silly, uncomfortable, or productive term they encountered. It could be something said to them or something they say to themselves. Leaving aside the linguistic debates around performative utterances, words act around art as a network of ideas, a system if you will, or a kind of scatterplot of imaginative relations.

Art and the State of Water

At the end of April, the gallery Nunu Fine Art opened in New York City with works by the Cuban multi-media artist duo Ariamna Contino & Alex Hernández Dueñas about glacier retreat and sea level rise, the collection of climate data by researchers and its marginalization by political forces, and therefore the necessity for an environmental ethics driven by cultural effort.

The Play’s the Thing

On August 16, Mitchell F. Chan launched a wry and ambitious work that used baseball as a vector through which we might better understand the statistical presumptions of our datafied existence. The incisive socio-political and economic critique wrapped in the trojan horse of gameland’s choose your own adventure makes The Boys of Summer a revelatory experience.


The Brooklyn Rail

SEPT 2023

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