Calvino's novel is less a story, an imaginative travelogue, than an investigation into the human condition. Like Calvino's text, the exhibition Invisible Cities touches on disparate themes and differing infrastructures, mediated systems, the parafictional, and the digital baroque, to describe the multiplicities of contemporary subjectivity. The show takes viewers on a journey through a trio of complementary media–the photographic, the filmic, and the digital—as it examines the complicated relationship between representation and mediation.
The exhibition is curated by Page Benkowski, Taylor Fisch, and Georgia Horn, each a graduate student in the Modern Art: Critical and Curatorial Studies program in the Department of Art History and Archaeology. Organized in three sections, works in this exhibition operate within a frame, whether the lens of a camera or a computer screen. These technological intermediaries challenge the conventions of looking by calling attention to their mechanisms of reproduction. The sections curated by Benkowski and Horn each engage a contemporary culture that dwells comfortably in the liminal space between the real, the hyperreal, and the "para-real." Meanwhile, Fisch questions how objects retain histories and the role images play in the construction of narratives.
Benkowski's contribution, #digitalbaroque, presents works by Anthony Antonellis, Cameron Askin, Carla Gannis, Joe Hamilton, Jillian Mayer and Lucas Leyva, Lorna Mills, Allison Parrish, and Katie Rose Pipkin. These artists all engage with the dynamic, participatory aesthetic of the digital baroque, creating artworks sited in the fold between the physical and the cyber that invite—and sometimes even demand—viewer-participation to be fully-realized.
Horn's project, A Slow Drift, features three films and a sculpture by Rosa Barba. Suspended between dichotomies—permanent and impermanent, real and fictional, obsolescent and modern—her works express both a concern for and an interest in the human interaction with landscape and geology. Each piece questions the relationship between memory and cinema, how memory is constructed, how tradition is preserved, and how filmic narrative is constructed in, around, and beyond reality.
Lastly, Fisch's section, The Still Life as Political Object, examines contemporary artists engaging conceptually and photographically with the still life tradition. Presenting works by Petros Efstathiadis, Roe Ethridge, Shadi Ghadirian, Leslie Hewitt, Annette Kelm, Rashaad Newsome, Jean-Luc Moulène, Indrė Šerpytytė, Taryn Simon and Christopher Williams, Fisch evaluates the genre's imaging of material culture as intrinsically bound to global political, social, and economic networks.
As Calvino wrote in his novel, "With cities, it is as with dreams. … Everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else." Invisible Cities lays bare the imagined dreams, the hidden anxieties, and the real desires of contemporary culture.