In his solo show titled “Irrational Exuberance” at Hosfelt Gallery in San Francisco, Alan Rath, a pioneer in the field of electronic art, presents a series of robotic sculptures made of aluminum, fiberglass, and feathers. To animate each piece, Rath has written open-ended algorithms that allow his creations’ behavior to evolve somewhat autonomously.
The sculptures spin, vibrate, shimmy, shake, wave and whirr, emitting almost musical tones. Feathers amplify the vibrations, giving literal form to the idea of “seducing the viewer” with a sense of humor, wit, and intimacy. In an interview posted on the Hosfelt Gallery’s blog, Rath notes being inspired by flowers, “I like the way flowers bloom and open up and just really put it out there so unashamedly. I wondered if there was some sort of mechanical way of doing that. I guess I wanted to explore playfulness and sensuality. Those are things that I haven’t seen in kinetic machine art — the work from the 70s and 80s — it all seemed so violent, heavy and industrial. I wanted movement that was playful.”
Rath makes a great point about how his work fits into the continuum of contemporary electronic art, often labeled “New Media” although it can hardly be considered new anymore. Whereas many artists practicing in this genre focus on the unforseen implications of new technology or bombardment by overwhelming amounts of information, Rath’s work, by referencing anatomy and behavior from the perspective of programming, marvels at the intricacy and potential of this intersection of art and technology; where so many lines of code, some feathers, and a few components can equal an elegant feeling of “irrational exuberance”.
-Contributed by Kelly Inouye