Figure One show looks at knowledge acquisition and subverting Google
If you want a handle on contemporary art, check out the August exhibit at Figure One, the downtown Champaign exhibition space of the University of Illinois School of Art + Design.
"Accepted Knowing: Peer Review" features a variety of projects by 18 mostly younger artists, some students or recent grads at the UI. But not all. Among those represented who do not attend the Big U is Jason Patterson, who in this case reworked on canvas, using black pastel and clear acrylic, YouTube images of the Rodney King beating in the pre-digital age.
I just saw Jason over at Figure One and was surprised to see other folks there, too, on a Tuesday afternoon. That’s the catch: Figure One is not open often. Summer hours are from noon to 5 p.m. Tuesdays and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Thursdays. So see it while you can.
"Accepted Knowing: Peer Review" is about the nature of knowledge, memory — a big topic in art and literature of late. "What do we know, how do we come to know, and what are the limits of knowing?" the curators ask.
"The project results in a collection of works that question the veracity of information, the validity of objectivity, forms of knowledge transmission and memory, and the credibility of these experiences," reads the card about the show.
What I liked about "Accepted Knowing" — there are some fine pieces including paintings! — is the peer-review process. Artists who submitted work also critiqued the pieces entered by other artists. Their comments are included in text under the artist’s statement, on the wall. (If you’re older, take reading glasses; the print is small.) This gives you an idea of what the piece is about and how contemporary artists view and talk about art.
One of the most relevant or timely pieces in "Accepted Knowing" is Ben Grosser’s "Personal Depersonalization System (2011)," a demonstration video installation for computer, display and custom software that he designed in order to escape or subvert how Google is personalizing your search engine results according to words and phrases you’ve Googled before.
Grosser’s system, mounted vertically on a wall and easy to read, operates live as it grabs words seemingly randomly from Webster’s 1934 Second International dictionary, the most recent public domain dictionary. The words pop up quickly in the Google query field, with one every so often resulting in websites to visit.
It also changes locations occasionally, grabbing a new zip code from the U.S. Census Bureau’s zip code database.
Here’s what Ben, a UI grad student in new media, wrote about his piece:
"Every phrase you search, every link you click, and every path you follow is databased, profiled, and indexed so that Google and other data tracking companies can develop a refined portrait of who they think you are — or more importantly, what they think you’ll buy. As a result, there is no longer a standard Google; the Google you see is personalized just for you and is different from the one anyone else sees. My reaction to this is an automated query machine that depersonalizes my own profile by hiding my real interests and inclinations within a sea of random noise."
Can Ben run? Can he hide?
For more information on this topic, Grosser recommends Eli Pariser’s new book, "The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding From You."
One woman once gave me the impression she thinks the UI is hiding Figure One. She couldn’t figure out where it is. The signage is minimal so it is easy to miss. It’s in the heart of downtown, at 116 N. Walnut St., just north of and on the same side of the street as the cupcake shop and Esquire. I think Figure One needs a street banner to grab the attention of passers-by.
"Accepted Knowing: Peer Review" was curated by Nicki Werner, Maria Lux and Jeanie Austin. The closing reception will be from 6 to 9 p.m. Aug. 26.