Location: CCA Wattis Insitutite 111th 8th Street San Francisco, CA 94107
Dates: January 19 - April 10, 2010
If a black and white photograph is taken of an artwork and then positioned next to the authentic piece, does the validity of the artist’s original work change? This is one of the questions posed by the exhibition titled R for Replicant, curated by Xiaoyu Weng and on display at the CCA Wattis Institute. The term “Replicant,” refers to Philip K Dick’s androids, or human-like machines that eventually begin to mimic “human empathy” through their own memories and experiences. In his sci-fi novel, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, bounty hunter Rick Deckard employs the Voigt-Kampff test, a set of questions used to determine the lack of empathy in an android. The replicant could then be retired (often in the form of a bullet to the head).
Both the novel and Ridley’s Scott’s film adaptation, Bladerunner, present a questioning of apparent reality and alternative experiences. The question of “what happens when humans are replicated into machines” can be applied to artworks. How does the experience change when you see a reproduction next to the original? Which is the “more real” image? The illusion of a fixed reality tests the exhibition spectator.
Mark Soo That's That's Alright Alright Mama Mama
Rodney Graham Dance!!!
One of the highlights dealing with the issue of false (android-like) memories is Rodney Graham’s Dance!!!!! (2008), a backlit color transparency diptych portraying three men in a Western saloon. Although it appears historical, the contemporary twist is that the man “dancing around the bullets” is the artist. The image is a false account of a popular personal memory of the iconic West, a false memory nurtured by Hollywood films.
The artworks in the show were all drawn from the Route 101 Collection, which includes artists living and working on the West Coast around Highway 101 and to the north (Vancouver) or south. Some of these artists represent a comprehensive spectrum of media, such as Ron Terada, Mark Soo, Bruce Conner, Jeff Wall, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Allen Ruppersberg, and Eleanor Antin. The curator could only use works from the Route 101 Collection, no doubt causing a challenge for a “sci-fi concept.” Fortunately, the curator’s play with doubles kept the “replicant” theme from being too fantastical.
-- ALLISON BLOMERTH