Art transcends into imagery of technology and nature

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Nature’s clash with technology was the theme of Patrick Owens’ “Tec Culture” exhibit, which opened Oct. 24 in the West Gallery in the Art and Design Center at CSUN.

Owens, a graduate student in art, is an Irish native who lives in Santa Barbara. He said it took him about three years to complete the exhibit because he had to travel to Ireland to obtain a visa. He then completed his project in the United States.

“This exhibit is my thesis graduate show,” Owens said.

Owens said that video artist Bill Viola inspired his work.

“(Viola) manipulates video to make us think differently about art,” Owens said.

Owens said he uses in his art the unorganized nature of both video and technology.

“Everything I do has to relate to one thing, and that’s technology,” he said.

Owens has five different pieces in the exhibit. The first piece is called “Absorbed,” and it is the first project seen when entering the West Gallery.

There was a light projector displaying images of green motherboards (or circuit boards) full of flies.

“Flies are being sucked into technology,” Owens said. “This is nature being sucked into technology. We are getting more absorbed by technology.”

Owens said an important question to ask is how far humanity will go into the development of technology.

Parallel to the “Absorbed” exhibit is one called “Which Way.” In that piece, a makeshift corridor was created with large black curtains extending from one end of the room to the other.

The space in the corridor is thin. Two television sets rest high in the air, suspended by chains on the left and right.

The television on the left showed an image of the ocean in Santa Barbara, accompanied by sounds of the actual ocean.

A large close-up of a moving yellow flower appeared in the wind after stepping on a red “X.”

“Should we go back to nature or back to technology? We can’t control how the ocean moves, but we can somewhat control a flower in the way it grows,” Owens said.

“The middle point is the decision-making point. That is 50 percent technology and 50 percent nature. This piece asks us which way is right. I don’t know which is good. It’s a pendulum. It’s indecisive,” he said.

Another piece called the “Wall,” featured different facial features projected onto the corner of the gallery walls. The facial features were contained in small squares, and were chased by empty squares along the wall.

“All the squares represent pixels,” Owens said. “(The squares) are jumping around, jumping after each other. No matter how much we try to get away from technology, we can’t,” Owens said.

“Let’s Talk” featured a table draped with white cloth on which three televisions sat.

One of the televisions showed an image of Owens talking. The television in the middle had words displayed, such as “inherited,” “efficient,” and “progressive.” The television to the right was black. Stepping on another “X” changed the screens and Owens’ face appeared, while one screen read sentences like, “I believe that balance is good in everything.”

The final piece, “Strive,” is made up of more than 100 green computer motherboards and three television sets nailed into plywood with a piece of a broken brown boat at the top.

Owens obtained the motherboards by using about more than 100 would-be-recycled computers. The sounds heard from the display are taken from the ocean in Santa Barbara.

The televisions display poetic lines running across the screens.

“(The poetic verses) resemble three different ways of understanding the same thing (technology and nature),” Owens said. He said the boat is a metaphor for humanity struggling through a sea of technology (the motherboards).

Owens said he is interested in what people have to say because a person’s reaction can help one focus on the subject.

“(The exhibit is ) talking about humanity. This is a mixed culture now. Technology is an extension of man’s art. I’m using the video instead of writing an essay,” Owens said.

Naho Sento, senior art major, also attended the opening of the exhibit.

“Video is my concentration and usually (video students) make videos just to watch, but here we are interacting with technology,” Sento said.

She said seeing the exhibit caused her to think of her own exhibit.

“I think this is more abstract. I was thinking about how my exhibit would be like. It’s more interesting to see interaction instead of just watching,” Sento said.

Owens said he believes that one can learn about another person by looking at what they do professionally.

“Artwork brings out personality,” Owens said.

Cynthia Ramos can be reached at cynthia.ramos.838@csun.edu.