• Summary

    With artworks that use a full range of media from artificial intelligence and “bio-hacking” to radiation and data trackers, as well as sculpture and drawings in traditional media, this exhibition foregrounded the tensions that emerge in our everyday relationships with technology. Invisible Threads presented a nuanced exploration of a global topic, framed by the region’s complex relationship to the benefits and pitfalls that accompany technological advances.

    Notably, Invisible Threads inaugurated one of NYU Abu Dhabi Art Gallery’s unique program strategies: inviting scholars and specialists from across the academic spectrum to guest-curate a major exhibition. Invisible Threads was co-curated by Professor Scott Fitzgerald, who was at the time founding Program Head of Interactive Media at NYU Abu Dhabi. He co-curated with Bana Kattan, then-Curator at the Gallery (now Associate Curator at MCA Chicago).

    Co-Curator and faculty Scott Fitzgerald said: “The ways we treat and use technology are central to my practice and teaching. This show is an exciting opportunity for me to work through these ideas in a new context. The artists in the show represent a spectrum of established and emerging talents who offer a broad and critical look at the way we have enshrined these tools in practically every aspect of our lives. Collectively, they help present a past, present, and future of our evolving relationship with technologies.”

    About the Curators

    Bana Kattan is the Pamela Alper Associate Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. At the time of Invisible Threads she was a curator at the New York University Abu Dhabi Art Gallery and the manager of the NYUAD Project Space. During her graduate work at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she worked with the Performance Department at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and the Curatorial Department of the Guggenheim- Abu Dhabi Project in New York. She was born and raised in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.

    Scott Fitzgerald is an artist and educator whose work examines the interdependence of culture and technology. He’s a Professor and co-Director of the Integrated Digital Media program at NYU Tandon and a PhD student in the Department of Media Study at University at Buffalo. His research investigates unseen power relations expressed through networked devices. Scott has a Master’s from New York University’s Interactive Telecommunications Program where he studied interactive video art and physical computing. His work has been exhibited and installed around the globe, including a permanent site-specific work at the University of Oslo and temporary public work in New York City’s Times Square. From 2007-2010, Scott was a researcher with the audio art group Locus Sonus, working with sound in built and imagined environments. He regularly runs workshops on using technology in the arts and was the head of documentation for the open source Arduino platform and was founding head of the Interactive Media program at New York University Abu Dhabi.

  • Read the essay

    Excerpt from the Curators’ essay in the brochure:

    With the launch of the first artificial satellite in 1957, humanity entered an age of new technological possibility. Sputnik’s orbit around Earth brought the race for technological superiority between the United States and the USSR to the forefront of the world’s consciousness. Posing as a symbol of ideological superiority, this event ushered in a race for greater technological achievements. With each successive advancement, hope and despair rises and recedes depending on how we perceive the appropriate use of these tools.

    The Information Age has given us tools of communication unrivaled in history, enabling us to express ourselves over vast distances. It has also opened a Pandora’s Box of unprecedented means of tracking, in an ecosystem of digital and virtual tools. These tools penetrate our daily life in the form of artifacts like mobile phones and computers, as well as systems like those that enable electronic financial transactions. Beautifully designed objects such as smartphones and laptops resist inspection, and are complex beyond the understanding of many of us. This “black box” model obscures the means by which information is handled, and who is using it.

    Our reliance on these tools may give rise to an emotional connection between oneself and the object. Regardless of how this relationship comes into being, we ultimately cannot engage in meaningful interaction with these devices and frameworks. When software no longer works as expected, or hardware fails, one cannot have a conversation with these tools. Our notion of control over these objects and systems can be illusory.

    Each of the works in Invisible Threads exposes these methods of control in some form; the artists here consider the perspective of the user and the object, but also the systems that arise from our reliance on these technologies. As a group, the works pull back the curtain on a part of our lives that we take for granted. The noble aspirations of digital tools that were essential to the formation of the information age is still very much part of these works. The works also enable us to take a critical look at our relationship with these systems of communication and trust in technology.

    With this exhibition, the curators aim to trace a dichotomy and examine the space between the poles of technological advance: noble aspiration versus anxiety. To proactively guide our use of these tools one must acknowledge one’s relationship with them. Through this exhibition, the curators invite visitors to explore the “invisible threads” that bind us to these technologies, and to contemplate the nuanced relationship between man and machine.

    Read the full text for the exhibition at this link.