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Firstsite, Colchester, opens an interactive installation by the New York-based artist Zoe Beloff
Zoe Beloff, Smart Objects Listen, from installation Emotions Go to Work, 2017. Courtesy the artist.

COLCHESTER.- Firstsite, Colchester, is presenting an interactive installation by the New York-based artist Zoe Beloff. Entitled Emotions Go to Work, the exhibition examines how technology, through a variety of means — be it internet marketing or Artificial Intelligence — is increasingly able to read our feelings and transform them into valuable assets.

Using samples of early black and white cartoons, kinetic experiments, slick advertorials, film projection, watercolours and cardboard cut-outs, through to the ubiquitous emoji, the exhibition presents itself as a riot of human and non-human faces, each of which build a picture of the interwoven history between man and machine.

The exhibition considers a number of key questions, such as what balance must be struck between entrusting machines with the freedom to reshape us in their image and, as technology adopts more and more emotional characteristics itself, the effect this might have in transforming our desires.

Says Firstsite Director, Sally Shaw: ‘We are proud to be staging this deeply thought-provoking exhibition. Like the subject it explores, Zoe’s work appears benign, however after engaging with it we are left pondering complex and difficult questions about technology and its effect on human desires and identity.’

An illustrated book that accompanies the exhibition can be purchased from the Firstsite shop.

Zoe Beloff grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland where she studied painting and drawing. In 1980 she moved to New York to study at Columbia University where she received an MFA in Film. An artist and filmmaker, her projects often involve a range of media including films, drawings and archival documents organized around a theme. These include proposals for new forms of community: The Coney Island Amateur Psychoanalytic Society and its Circle 1926 – 1972 and The Days of the Commune, projects that explore relationships between labour, technology and mental states in The Infernal Dream of Mutt and Jeff, as well as the exploration of the origins of cinema from a feminist perspective in Charming Augustine and Shadowland or Light from the Other Side.

Her current work addresses the relationship between American fascism in the 1930’s and its resurgence today. These new works, Exile, the Parade of the Old New and Between Worlds, focus on the status of the refugee and the undocumented in New York City and beyond. Both thematically and formally Beloff draws timelines between past and present helping us to imagine a future against the grain of reactionary ideology. She aims to make radical art that educates, entertains, and provokes discussion. Most importantly, as her work attests, she believes protest should be vibrant, humorous and colorful, a carnival of resistance to light the way in dark times.

Beloff’s work has been featured in international exhibitions and screenings. Venues include the Whitney Museum Biennales 1997 and 2002, Site Santa Fe, the M HKA museum in Antwerp, and the Pompidou Center in Paris. She particularly enjoys working in alternative venues that are free and open to the community for events and conversations. In New York City these have included: The Coney Island Museum, Participant, Momenta and The James Gallery at the CUNY Graduate Center. She has been awarded fellowships from The Graham Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, The Foundation for Contemporary Arts, The Radcliffe Institute at Harvard and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She is a professor at Queens College CUNY.

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