Re-interpreting old technology

The Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery’s latest installation Science Fiction Science Fair uses outdated electronic equipment to evoke a sense of nostalgia for the science fiction of the 1970s.

Created by Denton Fredrickson, Robyn Moody and Brian McKenna and curated by Corinna Ghaznavi, the unusual exhibit has been on display at the KWAG since Sept. 17.

KWAG’s curator Crystal Mowry described the artists as “tinkerers” who wanted to explore ways to utilize electronic devices for means other than consumer goods.

This creative desire is expressed through numerous pieces that aim at deconstructing the way we typically perceive materials like circuits, wires, gears and lightbulbs.

The first piece viewers see upon entering the exhibit is an early 19th Century-style sewing table, furnished with a seemingly primitive computer, rocks and a 1986 Expo baseball cap.

The work, titled De-Animator: The Long Slow Death of Nostalgia, perfectly encapsulates the exhibit’s clever use of anachronistic technology.

The show stealer by far, however, is an offering from Robyn Moody.

Audible upon entering the exhibition, Moody’s creation consists of a series of gears, motors and small mirrors that whiz and whir non-stop in a dazzling and captivating arrangement on the floor of the gallery.

Other components of the display include a wooden frame of a grand piano, backlit digital images projected on to recycled plastic and a wooden box filled with jumbled circuitry.

Mowry pointed out that despite the “inventiveness” of the creations, they are not entirely complete until the viewer embeds meaning in them.

She claimed that the artists purposely crafted their art so that “the guts of the work are clearly visible.”

Hence, the unfinished look is intended to give viewers a glimpse into the way electronic devices work.

Science Fiction Science Fair debuted in Oshawa and will be continuing on to Owen Sound when it leaves the KWAG, but Mowry believes it has a special connection to Kitchener-Waterloo.

An area with a rich industrial history that has transformed into a city known for its communications advancements, K-W complements the notions of nostalgia for old technology and dissecting the way in which new electronics work.

The installation was partnered with another exhibit, organized by Kyle Bishop of Kitchener-Waterloo Collegiate and Vocational School and some of his students.

Called the && Collective, it reflects the same themes of reinventing anachronistic electronics for new artistic purposes.

Bishop’s work utilizes mediums like video, graphic design, painting, performance and music, and is intended to evolve and change as its residency at KWAG continues.

Updates will be available on the gallery’s website and events will be hosted around town to extend the project to different locations and audiences.

On display until Jan. 9, 2011.