Mika Tajima contemplates technology and Ccntemporary life at Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art

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Mika Tajima contemplates technology and Ccntemporary life at Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art
Mika Tajima, installation views in After Life at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT, 2017. Photo by Allen Phillips.

HARTFORD, CONN.- New York artist Mika Tajima created a technology-driven, responsive installation for the 177th exhibition of the MATRIX contemporary art series at the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. "After Life" addresses the rise of predictive technology in computer algorithms used to anticipate future human behavior. The exhibition is on view through Sept. 3, 2017. Emily Hall Tremaine Curator of Contemporary Art Patricia Hickson is organizing the exhibition.

Ubiquitous in modern life, and particularly, developed by the military and for e-commerce applications, various methods of automatic identification and data capture (AIDC)--from bar codes to Google searches--obtain and analyze personal information to predict and promote future human behavior. The computer algorithm Tajima uses in her installation "scrapes," or extracts data from, social media and searches that information for indications of emotion; results are used to predict the future sentiment of the sampled population. "After Life" visualizes those artificial future expressions using both color and text. A hanging light installation controlled by the computer program oscillates in real time between violet (representing positivity) and orange (representing negativity); a stream of automatically generated text on a flat screen monitor "writes" new, predictive-future messages, emulating the original form of the captured data.

The changing light conditions influence the viewer's experience of the exhibition space, three "furniture art" paintings hung on the perimeter walls, and a sculpture titled "Social Chair." Designed to theoretically accommodate four sitters, the sculpture refers to the new modular designs of work spaces which denote the contemporary way of working "collaboratively" and are also often found in casual places and in transit centers. "Social Chair" is constructed from hard walnut. Hot-tub jet nozzles allude to invisible pressure rather than the comfort of a spa. The conjoined seats face away from each other, manifesting the contradiction of a life where work never stops and collaborations are actually isolated.

"My recent work invokes technologies developed to control and affect the body, focusing on techniques that shape bodily experience of space and time in a built environment where work and leisure spaces have meshed," writes Tajima. "This is a space where the human body comes into tension with the machinist body and its constructionist logic of fragmentation and measurement."

"After Life" also includes the artist's "Art d'Ameublement," or "Furniture Art" paintings; rectangular Plexiglas boxes back-painted with thinly-layered spray paint serve as abstract, reflective elements in the installation. Subtitled with the names or geographic locations of uninhabited islands, the paintings are a counterpoint to a life fully integrated with technology. "'After Life' presents a stark vision of contemporary life--a room illuminated by the future feelings of a population, an unsuitable social arrangement, gradient mirrors and machine-generated poetry," says curator Patricia Hickson. "Control is the focus of Tajima's critique. She draws attention to the reality of how we live our lives: while technology seeks to capture life, can we escape between the lines and out of view?"

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