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Friday, February 25, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 a.m.

Current of fun runs through "Electricity II"

Seattle Times art critic

Exhibit Review

Enlarge this photoANDREW SEMPERE

"People Doing Strange Things With Electricity II" is on exhibit at CoCA.

Listen to me.
Hug me gently.
Touch me.
Pay me.

Those aren't the kind of instructions you usually see on art-gallery walls.

But at "People Doing Strange Things with Electricity II" — a show that's taken over the Center on Contemporary Art through next Friday — you're meant to have a hands-on and mind-open kind of experience. Guest curator Kate Seekings put together a roomful of work that's earnest, engaging and fun to play with — though probably not as radical as it aspires to be.

Exhibit review


"People Doing Strange Things with Electricity II," 2-8 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, noon-5 p.m. Friday-Sunday, through March 4 at Center on Contemporary Art, 410 Dexter Ave. N., Seattle. In conjunction with the exhibit, there will be a screening of a group of short films from the '60s documenting new media performances by artists such as Jean Tinguely, John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Nam June Paik and others. 7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Seattle Art Museum, 100 University St., Seattle (206-728-1980 or www.cocaseattle.org).

Seekings heads the local chapter of dorkbots, a network of multimedia artists and techies who meet monthly to brainstorm and party. The more than 30 artists she selected — among them established Seattle artists Ginny Ruffner, Iole Alessandrini and Ellen Ziegler, as well as participants from around the country — all have an exuberant attitude about the possibilities of wired art. Stuff is blipping and whirring, screeching and droning, mutating and wavering throughout the gallery. I like the unexpected jolt of Ronald Lambert's "Toward A Possible Bliss," an old record player that — when you put the needle on a spinning record — plays moving pictures. Another winner is Ryan Wolfe's lyrical 3-D "sketch" of field grass: a row of single grass blades wavering to their own inner sense of wind. (Or, as Wolfe puts it in the catalog: "Each blade is a complete computational system with the ability to sense and respond to its environment.")

My gripe about "People Doing Strange Things with Electricity" is that some of the participants don't seem aware that they are reinventing the wheel when it comes to using technology in art. A few artists get so swept up by the fact that sensors exist and that you can make inanimate objects respond to human presence, that they don't get much beyond that. It's a glaring omission of the show to have overlooked the Northwest's granddaddies of electronic art, Bob Teeple and Jack Dollhausen, who've been doing strange things with electricity for decades. Those two got past the gee-whiz factor with electronics and developed its use in sophisticated and poetic works of art.

Sheila Farr: sfarr@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company


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