Review of ZERO1 Artist, Christopher Baker’s installation, Murmur Study

Creating strategies around how to deal with technology can become tiresome and futile. Technology is constantly at our fingertips for the majority of our days and, sometimes, nights. When we go to bed and wake up, virtuality and the Internet remain ubiquitously present. We may as well have our mobile devices tucked safely underneath our pillows for fear of being disconnected. If alien life forms were to descend, they may wonder how we obtain and retain our information. How do you describe looking into a backlit rectangular screen for approximately eight hours a day as a way to intellectually and emotionally digest images and contextualize your environment? From the world’s ugliest dog to the political and social upheaval in the Middle east to socializing online has become the way in which we obtain meaning about our environment. The anxiety and anticipation we feel to connect with others further adds to the way we function and re-create ourselves within language. In Christopher Baker’s work, Murmur Study, his installation showcases our collective meanderings through bringing physicality to our digital exchanges.

As a 2012 ZERO1 biennial artist, Baker installed this iteration of Murmur Study in the back of the renovated and large exhibition space known as the ZERO1 Garage located in Downtown San Jose. The mottled, weathered, gray concrete that once served as a car repair shop now welcomes the footsteps of arts and technology patrons as well as curious newcomers. Baker reinvents micro messaging through circuitous wires and re-programmed thermal printers#. Far from reach, the printers are hung high on an exposed beam. Like soldiers at attention, they hold their post through the day and night without rest. Yet, the slow release of printed messages such as “That awkward moment when you’re eating fast food and some show about ‘how unhealthy the world is today’ is on tell…::whoops::?” provoke us to respond. Yet, the installation relies only on observation as the thin receipt paper cascade down and messages eventually reach eye level. On the gallery floor, the paper accumulates resulting in piles that resemble white discarded shoelaces. During the rush of opening night, bodies passed curiously by the work. As visitors passed the installation, the papers slightly billowed and reminded us of their presence.

Baker’s interpretation of our digital life siphoned from social media platforms into tangible form showcase our methods of thinking and communicating. Our thoughts, once untouchable, fall into the form of computation and transmission. The papers serve as remnants of our processing and constructions of everyday life. The work addresses the theme of Seeking Silicon Valley in that much of what we might believe is created in this technological region actually encompasses so much more than the physical location. Murmur Study captures the hashtags of our collective desires and beliefs, sometimes humorous and poignant, other times offensive and didactic. It reminds us that Silicon Valley is rapidly becoming way more of an idea than a tangible place. As one continues to read the papers in Baker’s piece, its easy to notice the stream riddled with vernacular and awaiting interaction. Although rigid, sleek, and so far up from eye level, the viewer is still able to see the thick, tangled wiring and circuitry behind the neatly hung printers. We watch slowly as one the most familiar objects in consumption dispenses information and data on how we might spend our time.

Originally posted to the ZERO1 blog here

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Author: Dorothy R. Santos

Dorothy R. Santos is a writer, editor, curator, and educator whose research areas and interests include new media and digital art, activism, artificial intelligence, networked culture, and biotechnology. Born and raised in San Francisco, California, she holds Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Psychology from the University of San Francisco, and received her Master’s degree in Visual and Critical Studies at the California College of the Arts. She is currently the managing editor for Hyphen magazine. Her work appears in art21, Art Practical, Daily Serving, Rhizome, Hyperallergic, and Public Art Dialogue. She has lectured and spoken at the De Young museum, Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Stanford University, School of Visual Arts, and more. Her essay “Materiality to Machines: Manufacturing the Organic and Hypotheses for Future Imaginings,” has been published to The Routledge Companion to Biology in Art and Architecture in 2016. She serves as executive staff for the Bay Area Society for Art & Activism, board member for the SOMArts Cultural Center, and teaches at the University of California, Santa Cruz in the Digital Art and New Media department.

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