What makes us human? That is a question for the ages. But with the advent of artificial intelligence, contemplating the essence of humanity has become even more urgent. The artist team of Lilla LoCurto and Bill Outcault have wrestled with this question for the past twenty-five years through their photographs, video animations, and installations. Using advanced technologies, they have taken their ongoing investigations to a new and profound place.
Lilla LoCurto & Bill Outcault: Much Madness is divinest Sense, on view from March 27-June 30, 2019, at the Neuberger Museum of Art
, Purchase, College, SUNY, presents the artists groundbreaking new work and considers the correspondence between the body, language, and technology, leading one to ponder humanness versus machine intelligence. In addition to the teams recent single- and multichannel videos, photographs, and drawings, the exhibition features a new, life-sized, computerized marionette that can interact with visitors and notice their movement in the gallery. It can discern gender and facial features, and relate to a visitor with a range of emotions including sadness, longing, surprise, shame, and fear. The impact is stunning.
Are we humanizing technology? Will machines replace people? asks Michael Mansfield, Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, in his essay, which accompanies the exhibition. Helaine Posner, Chief Curator of the Neuberger Museum of Art, who curated the show, observes that The marionette is, of course, entirely uncanny and unnerving, especially as it reveals the frailties and insecurities of humans as they attempt to interact with a robot. But, she adds, The personification of technologys presence built in our image as a recognizable figure, helps us ponder the innate structures and social codes that inform the world we inhabit and the society we are creating. As the most recent addition to their ever-evolving body of work, it looks to the future while remaining rooted in the eternal.
Special Focus on the Human Body
The artists primary focus is the human body as a mechanism of comprehending emotion, intelligence, and social roles. In addition to the marionette, titled cats cradle, their recent videos, photographs, and drawings of the body explore an individuals physical and psychological vulnerability and cultural identity. Often collaborating with mathematicians, physicists, cartographers, computer scientists and others, LoCurto and Outcault use advanced technologies to create their work. Computer graphics, three- and four-dimensional scanning, and motion capture are used to uncover new ways of imaging and understanding the body, both at rest and in motion.
We use the computer as a drawing tool, developing techniques and, at times, software where the drawing can take place in virtual space, LoCurto once explained. They are extracted moments from the animations, built from many layers, and revisited from multiple perspectives at the same instant in time. Although the source of our work has its origin essentially in photography, the nature of our medium allows us to manipulate it not only photographically and cinematically, but also as a drawing.
The title of the exhibition Much Madness is divinest Sense is derived from an eight-line poem by Emily Dickinson. It expresses the feelings of those who have at least once thought of living a life free from the constraints of society. The thought that what is called madness is often actually the truest sanity, but as long as it differs from the perspective of the majority which defines what is right and wrong, it will be called madness.
Much Madness is divinest Sense -
To a discerning Eye -
Much Sense - the starkest Madness -
'Tis the Majority
In this, as all, prevail -
Assent - and you are sane -
Demur - you're straightway dangerous -
And handled with a Chain -
The exhibition is accompanied by a fully-illustrated, 68-page catalogue with essays by Michael Mansfield, Executive Director and Chief Curator of the Ogunquit Museum of American Art, and Helaine Posner, Chief Curator, Neuberger Museum of Art, and an artists statement.