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From Steel to Software

By Rhizome

When buildings first began to scrape the sky in Manhattan, city dwellers are reported to have dismissed them as idiotic for their seemingly short-sighted pursuit of extreme heights. But, it wasn't long before the towering contours of a building came to represent not idiocy but power and success. In his current solo exhibition at Bitforms gallery in New York, Mark Napier reflects upon the transition from monumental power structures, symbolized by skyscrapers, to the malleable, information-based systems of the digital age. Well-known for software art projects that provoked fundamental questions about art's materiality, Napier used custom software to create the video installation and prints on view here. Smoke, a video projection on a wall of the gallery, features the Empire State Building teetering on the edge of collapse--not falling over, but twisting and convulsing, as if the physical structure of the building was in the grip of a more dynamic force. Here, the collision between steel and software appears horrifying whereas in other pieces such as the video Bend, which explores the body's relationship to information, the imagery is elegant and calm. Together, the works present a stark and strong exploration of societal structures in flux--well worth visiting the gallery's website or making a trip to contemplate in-person, especially if you are curious about the more emotive, visceral aspects of software's rise to power. - Lauren Cornell

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