THE STEVE GUTTENBERG GALAXY
SEVENTEEN at The Wharf Road Project
CURATED BY PAUL PIERONI
The artists gathered together for this exhibition are variably engaged in the 'art of the electronic age'. This determination does not refer to the outstanding presence of electrical technology in their work - though as you can see the predominant modes are electric; comprising, video, personal computers, gaming consoles, mpeg movies, flash, etc. - rather what it means is that the art on display can be read in terms of its relationship to the perpetually shifting topography of a world increasingly dominated by new electronic media. A hyper-technical world, a world Marshall McLuhan would have described in communicative terms as a 'global village', enfolds us: digital radio, multi-channel television, home computers, computer games, email, mobile phones and, perhaps most importantly, the Internet - all inventions with an everyday impact.
New aesthetic approaches based on 'glitch' and compression, novel distribution structures that exploit the open access potentialities of web 2.0, ruminations on the technological dialectic, mass media critique, innovative information systems, snappy-hyper-pop-cultural sensibilities, sonic and percussive montage, code cracking - be it opening them up, or just breaking them down ... these are just some of the artistic moves presented for your pleasure in The Steve Guttenberg Galaxy.
In itself, as an exhibition title, 'The Steve Guttenberg Galaxy' is a joke; a pun coaxed from the admittedly moronic observation of a singular similitude. In the main it is lifted from Canadian media theorist Marshall Mcluhan's (1911-80) 1962 publication - 'The Gutenberg Galaxy'. However, with a simple twist the title is smoothly re-directed away from its proper reference to Johannes Gutenberg (c. 1400-68), the inventor of the printing press and towards Steve Guttenberg (1958 - present), a now faded actor memorable to a generation of movie goers as the all American star of a number of notable Hollywood film franchises.
A joke then ... however further contemplation reveals that things are not quite so simple…
By spuriously opposing Johannes Gutenberg (the eponymous hero of McLuhan's exploration of the pre-electric age of print) with Steve Guttenberg, a sort of sad anti-icon for our electro-technical, mass media, 'entertainment as culture' age, this exhibition, beyond a pun or joke, gestures both towards the newly hyper age as well as to the emergence of a generation of artists operating directly in concert with it, reflexively contributing to its ongoing mapping.