Artechouse’s new exhibition has a mind of its own.
“This is no different than theater, except instead of real people, we have machines,” Pastukhova says. “There’s a chance that something could go wrong at any time, but the good thing is most of the time the audience does not notice behind the scenes.”
“Everything in Existence,” which opened last week, marks the first North American solo show for Italian art studio fuse and the 11th exhibition for Artec-house since it opened in June 2017. The independent gallery has made serious headway in the creative world with its tech-savvy approach to art, where machines are just as crucial to the creative process as the artists programming them. “Everything in Existence” feels like the pinnacle of this harmonious marriage.
“The exhibition is heavily based on data and the visualization of the data,” Kereselidze says. “Until we open our doors, the art will be a surprise. We are excited when we ourselves are able to see the finished product.”
“Everything in Existence,” which runs through March 10, is composed of fuse’s best works of the past 10 years. Visitors begin their journey with “Multiverse,” which is housed in a cavernous room with a reflective, mirror-like floor. A vertical projection 130 feet wide and 24 feet high engulfs the entire room in cinematic computerized images that morph into various shapes. Every 30 minutes, the installation resets and begins another projection. The mammoth size of “Multiverse” puts into perspective just how small we really are.
“This is the whole point of ‘Everything in Existence’ — understanding more about this juxtaposition between us as humans versus the universe and the unknown that’s there beyond our imagination,” Pastukhova says.
As visitors leave “Multiverse,” they head down a long, dark hallway with a sea of brightly lit monitors. This installation, “Snow Fall,” is the point where visitors can become a part of the exhibition. The movements of passers-by are captured with a depth sensor and their silhouettes are displayed on screen in front of a snowy backdrop. The outlines of the silhouettes get sharper the longer someone stands in front of the monitors, which encourages visitors to slow down and appreciate the art.
“The piece is the most visual and presentable way of understanding how someone’s presence affects the world around them,” Pastukhova says.
The dark hallway leads to “Amygdala,” one of the most dramatic installations in the show. The piece is powered by a computer algorithm that analyzes social media sentiments on Twitter in real time and categorizes them into six different emotions: happiness, sadness, fear, anger, disgust and amazement. Each emotion is assigned a color and displayed as an abstract visual flashed on 15 LED columns that are arranged in a large circle.
“No matter how small we think we are, we still have an effect on things,” Pastukhova says of the installation. “[‘Amygdala’] is a way to see ourselves within this larger existence that is out there.”
Pastukhova says “Amygdala” will translate roughly 90 million tweets into art by the end of the show’s run at Artechouse. Visitors can stand in the center and gawk at the steady drumbeat of visuals, or watch the data being analyzed through monitors located at the back of the installation.
To view the last installation, you’ll need to look up, then down. “Clepsydra” translates sound with computerized visuals that are projected on plexiglass fastened to the ceiling. The reflective black floor acts as an unconventional second canvas for “Clepsydra” as the displays spill over the ground and become more fully realized.
To complement the show, Artechouse has set up a fully stocked “augmented reality” bar with $12 cocktails that are named after the installations and are just as unique as the artwork. The Multiverse cocktail, for instance, is a warm drink offering a sweet and distinct blend of spices and citruses such as rosemary, lemon, honey and ginger kombucha. The cocktails are topped with a circular, paper-thin edible design that projects graphics when viewed through Artechouse’s app.
With the vast amount of technology needed to run “Everything in Existence,” it’s no surprise that the nine-month planning process was a tedious one. Artechouse needed to completely revamp its space to make room for the elaborate installations. Assembling the exhibition even required the occasional 24-hour workday — with Pastukhova and Kereselidze staying overnight at the gallery — but that’s just the nature of the beast when working with art that doesn’t stop.
“There’s never a final product with an exhibit like this,” Pastukhova says. “It evolves, it changes. There are things that keep going, and until you have visitors [at the gallery], you don’t know when things might come up. It’s living art.”
Artechouse, 1238 Maryland Ave. SW; through March 10, $15.