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Spray-Painted Artifacts Take the Bling Out of Tech

Think about it: What ever happened to your first Nokia?

Electronic devices sprayed in gold paint—a Windows 95 monitor, a Blackberry, a laptop, a hard drive—are placed in a Stonehenge-like circle inside of the Johannes Vogt Gallery as a memorial and meditation space in Chelsea as part of Marisa Olson’s latest exhibit, Fools Gold.

Olson tells The Creators Project, “They are vessels of cultural values (those of their producers and consumers); testaments to how people value the environment that gets polluted with seemingly endless e-waste; and in these new circular arrangements, I'm hoping the gold artifacts will reflect another level of value—the spiritual or moral relationship we have to these devices.”

Olson is an interdisciplinary conceptual artist and media scholar whose widely published, translated, and anthologized writings on digital media, performance, and our relationships to technology helped to coin the term post-internet back in 2006.

Fools Gold is an extension of her wide-traveled Time Capsule exhibit, which also contained the cartoon-like golden devices in sculptural towers. Olson has long been obsessed with how we interact with our personal devices and become addicted to the technology and immediate interaction they provide us with. She says, “I've heard people call certain tools their ‘baby,’ and of course cinema has shown us many computers with proper-names. We stare at, sleep with, fondle/caress, some times even pray to our screens, keys, and smartphones. Then we decide we need to move on and throw them away, kicking them to the curb like impersonal chunks of metal & plastic.”

Olson’s work is then concerned with the lifecycle of a product. Her works probe the inevitable timelines imposed by innovation. She says, “When I was a kid, I was told that the word generation referred to parents, grandparents, etc. Now it refers to 'generations' of iPhones. Planned obsolescence and a constant compulsion to upgrade have warped our sense of time and even the speed of consumer niche-defined generations.”

Today our devices mark our movements, schedule our days, and capture our tender moments to post to social media. We are inexorably attached to them and to each other through their applications. Olson’s Fools Gold urges us to rethink our habits.  “We use them to 'upgrade' our lives, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. We don't just want harder, better, faster, stronger electronics, we want (and believe we can attain) better selves by virtue of them,” she says.

Along with the gilded objects, Olson displays pixel weavings in sparkly gold to resemble the movement and bling of animated GIFs but to tangible objects, as well as oversized hot pink friendship bracelets. She says the braids are also tied to our overt relationship to technology,“They signify our tight personal bond with our gear, but as super-strong hardware store twine, they also invoke a bondage relationship to the electronic hardware that tends to dominate our daily existence.”

The entire patina of the show is based on our relationships to our personal devices; the ties to consumer culture, and invisible but omnipresent waste we bequeath both the environment and ourselves. As an artist, Olson is dedicated to making “centerpieces” whether as sculptures, drawing, video, or performance. She says, “I'm really just making something to plop down and bring people ‘to the table’ to have a conversation. The conversation is where it's at for me.” 

Fools Gold opens today and runs through November, 14th at Johannes Vogt Gallery in Chelsea, New York. 

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