Exhibits I might skip, part one: Gallery 400's "Observer Effect" | Bleader

Exhibits I might skip, part one: Gallery 400's "Observer Effect"


Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe


The press release that landed in my inbox this week for the group exhibit "Observer Effect," up at UIC's Gallery 400 through March 9, brought to mind a series of blog posts by former Reader managing editor and current contributor Jerome Ludwig. These posts ran under the title "Books I won't review," and consisted of hilariously misguided pitches.

Here's Gallery 400's opening paragraph:

Observer Effect examines how artworks incorporate processes akin to the scientific method as a means to examine and understand specific phenomena that exist in the world. Each artist’s idiosyncratic approach of observing and understanding his/her distinct subject matter reveals the artist's own subjectivity through this process, and discloses how each artist, the observer, is part of what is being observed.

Huh? But never mind. Further down they explain it all:

In Observer Effect, curators Carrie Gundersdorf and Lorelei Stewart reveal how keen observation and investigation are parts of artistic practice and how that practice is often imbued with the subjective. That subjective element is an effective artistic tool. Observer Effect proposes to reveal just how useful that tool is, and the dynamic relationship between artist, process, and artwork.

Ah. Artists look carefully at their subjects. They have reactions to what they see. It all goes into the art. Eureka.

Then there are the descriptions of each artist's work:

Rather than a rigid scientific approach, John O'Connor's methodology involves invented systems that produce drawings that are more reactive to data than they are to concrete representations. His process is haphazard but not aimless—relying on chance and reassessment.

With a highly interdisciplinary approach to art-making, Steve Roden investigates source material through self-invented restrictions, though always leaving room to make intuitive and reactionary decisions.

The large-scale drawings of Jorinde Voigt exhibit a particularly human perception of the natural world through subjective algorithms and diagrams that create a visualization of data that suggests temporality through spiraling and crossing lines—more reminiscent of documenting esoteric experience than rigid schematics.

The curators reach a conclusion:

The basics of the scientific method—asking a question, conducting background research, offering a hypothesis, testing the hypothesis in an experiment, analyzing the data, and drawing a conclusion—offer a pathway both to understand our changing world and to reflect on the new forms of thought necessitated by it.

What new forms of thought? Maybe the exhibit makes that clear, but I don't think I'll get there.