Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Gail Wight at Stanford University

Gail Wight became a heroine of mine this fall. Our paths had crossed during my time at Mills College, but it was not until 2& became artists in residence at Stanford that I began to explore her work more fully. I sat with her exhibition for a long while yesterday, moved to tears for many reasons, including those that ask the tough hard questions about the personal in your art, about the honesty of your aesthetic, and about the committment to ideas and ideals that maybe you've carried with you for a very long time. Maybe, even, since you were a child.

In Sliding Scale, one finds scientific subjects (microscopes and labratory mice, drawings of chromosomes and old texts on evolution) as well as modern technologies (interactive video monitors and video projections, ambient and wryly popular soundtracks) yet Wight's intersection of the two is so playful. She keeps things beautiful, simple and sincere. The pieces, whether a pristine series of prints on the wall or a video encased in a nineteenth century viewing box, are naive and direct and not trying too hard. They do not try to be something that Gail herself is not. To have kept true to her vision, to this sort of austere, quirky simplicity, without "showing off' as either scientist or technologist...well, I admire that, and I want to be sure that is always me. I too aim to find a way to use technology in art that is not immediately perceived as fast, flashy and furious. Demonstrative virtuosity might be kept in mind, of course, when studying a music programming language or developing techniques with a new piece of "gear," but I always want my end product to somehow remain quite at a distance from that, from what I see as new technology's lure...and its pitfall.

Gail Wight has found that distant place. Even with its cerebral emphasis, how it places you in a world of science and experiment, electric wiring and detailed diagrams, her art is never just a demonstration of digital technique. No. It is personal and true and, for me, a perfect balance between an artistic vision and the means used to realize it.


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