Exhibition to discuss good and bad of technology

Exhibition to discuss good and bad of technology
Unknown Gamer, an installation by Aram Bartholl.

Abu Dhabi - Invisible Threads: Technology and its Discontents to be held in Abu Dhabi from September 22.


Silvia Radan

Published: Tue 2 Aug 2016, 6:24 PM

Last updated: Wed 3 Aug 2016, 2:21 PM

Andre Layes spent an entire evening with friends without saying a word. The French resident in Abu Dhabi joined his Arab friends, most of them in their 20s, to a cafe and, to his amazement, none of them have anything to say to each other after the initial hellos.
"They were all sitting around the table watching videos on their mobile phones. I think at some point they were even sending messages to each other, even though they were right next to one another," said Andre.
"I knew that people in this part of the world are quite hooked on their smartphones and tablets, but I've never experienced anything like this before".
Such stories are becoming increasingly common, not just in UAE, but elsewhere.
For years, doctors, professors and experts in general have warned against the abuse of digital technology - a child's brain does not fully develop when they only 'feed' it with computer games - as social, behaviour, communication and language skills are lost when the virtual world takes over the real one.
More recently, artists too have joined the debate: Is technology destructive?
German conceptual artist Aram Bartholl, known for his examination of the relationship between the digital and physical world, has created his "Unknown Gamer" video installation by filming his seat neighbours during his travels, playing video games on their smartphones.
"The growing attention to the handheld private screen in public is typical phenomenon of the last years. Especially with computer games, the player is very much bound to the screen. The attention is so big the player doesn't even realise he/she is being filmed from a very close distance," explained Bartholl.
His "Unknown Gamer" will soon make it to Abu Dhabi as part of New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) opening fall exhibition next month.
Invisible Threads: Technology and its Discontents will feature works by 15 international artists, including such renowned names as Chinese artist Ai Weiwei and American artist Addie Wagenknecht, all part of a visual debate on the good and the bad of technology.
Their works were particularly selected by NYUAD curators to explore the tensions that emerge in our everyday relationships with technology, looking at such issues as isolation versus connectedness, and privacy versus social media.
"From the Industrial Revolution to the dawn of space travel and the creation of Internet, technological revolutions have had profound impacts on the arts. This universal theme is especially relevant in the UAE, a country that is home to extraordinary state-level technological innovations, as well as a remarkably tech-savvy, connected population," said Bana Kattan, curator of NYUAD's Art Gallery.
The information age may have made means of communication unrivalled in history, but these same tools also generate anxiety about a user's exposure via these modes, whether to risk of hackers or from technology's effect on our environment or well-being.
Invisible Threads will thus present a nuanced discussion of a global topic, framed by the region's complex relationship with the benefits and pitfalls that accompany technological advances.
"The ways we treat and use technology are central to my practice and teaching. This show is an exciting opportunity for me to work through these ideas in a new context. The artists in the show represent a spectrum of established and emerging talents who offer a broad and critical look at the way we have enshrined these tools in practically every aspect of our lives," said Professor Scott Fitzgerald, co-curator of the exhibition, Assistant Art Professor and the Programme Head of Interactive Media at NYUAD.

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