Friday, March 5, 2010

Center explores the meaning of privacy

Installations question costs of living in a secure world


By SABINA DANA PLASSE
Express Staff Writer

Artist Deborah Aschheim, left, and Brian Marrier install a neural column from Aschheim’s “Neural Architecture” series at the Sun Valley Center for the Arts in Ketchum. Photo by David N. Seelig

The Sun Valley Center's new multidisciplinary exhibition, "I Spy: Surveillance and Security," consists of two original installation pieces from artists Hasan Elahi and Deborah Aschheim.

Elahi's installation, "Tracking Transience: The Orwell Project," is based on an online database of his travels and finances begun after he was mistakenly targeted as a suspected terrorist and interrogated by the FBI.

"Once the [FBI] machine starts, it can't be stopped," Elahi said. "I had nine consecutive polygraphs and was never formerly charged. My PDA [personal digital assistant] saved me because I was always taking photos."

Elahi's installation incorporates several flat screens on every wall of The Center's installation room. Each screen has scrolling images of airports around the world. On his travels, Elahi collected thousands of images of airports, all of which have an alarming similarity to them and feel as if the viewer is watching a surveillance camera. The floor of the exhibition space is a map of airport terminals, which is an amalgamation of terminals that Elahi has traveled through.

"Security at every airport around the world is identical," Elahi said. "I created this exhibition specifically for The Center's space."

In the larger exhibition space, Aschheim's clear plastic configuration of tubing and membrane-like material offers another side to surveillance—one of sensitivity.

"This is my response to 9/11," Aschheim said. "There has been an increase in anxiety in public spaces which did not exist before. It's as if spaces are booby trapped with motion detectors and hidden cameras."

Aschheim's "neural column" sculpture is interactive. A viewer walks into the column and will see himself or herself on several cameras placed within the sculpture. The piece is also light sensitive and lights turn on and off from movement toward it.

"The sculpture is based on the cerebral part of the brain," she said. "And, it grows with each installation."

Aschheim said the work is more about the consumer and the overlooked effects of technology.

"Surveillance can be purchased for $50 or less at any big box store," Aschheim said. "It's a benign improvement to a home. We just accept technology and adjust to it without really knowing it."

"I Spy: Surveillance and Security" will continue through Friday, April 30. For details, visit sunvalleycenter.org.

Sabina Dana Plasse: splasse@mtexpress.com




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