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Grad Show Glitters

Grad Show Glitters

Powerful street art projects, a living mini-garden—and a watchful robotic eyeball—are on display in All That Glitters Are Not LEDs, the Digital + Media show now at RISD’s Sol Koffler Graduate Student Gallery.

Matthew Mahoney MFA 14 SC inspects Unscent Unburdened/Sunconscious Subterranean, a sensory piece by David Kim MFA 14 DM.

It would be wise to mind your manners when inspecting the curious work in All That Glitters Are Not LEDs, the Digital + Media show now at RISD’s Sol Koffler Graduate Student Gallery. In a corner, a small robotic eyeball keeps a vigilant watch over users who play with the remote control attached to its spindly body. Rebecca Conrad MFA 15 DM and Alexander Stewart MFA 15 DM installed a camera in the apparatus that quietly transmits a live feed of its interactions with humans. The monitor displaying the feed is in the entryway to the gallery and to add an air of whimsy, the designers constructed a cardboard nest around the watching eyeball.

“This piece feels really current to me,” noted Roque Montez MFA 14 PR as he toyed with the remote control. “It reminds me of the controversy surrounding the National Security Agency’s illegal surveillance systems. It’s capturing personal information—and transmitting it—without the viewer necessarily knowing. It feels invasive.

One of the most sensory pieces included in the show is Unscent Unburdened/Subconscious Subterranean (pictured above). Using rugged fabric, compost, a grow light soil—and an earthworm colony—David Kim MFA 14 DM created a living mini-garden that grows grass in the center of a hanging hammock. He also “buried” an unsent letter written to his estranged mother in the center of the aromatic heap.

Bathsheba Okwenje MFA 14 DM contributes another fascinating work to the show. In an ongoing street art project, she posts screenprint images of Indian or South African women in such public places as bazaars and transportation hubs in New Delhi and Johannesburg, respectively. By inserting a female presence in male-dominated areas of public commerce, she hopes to spark conversations about gender politics and sexual violence in these countries. Interestingly, in both cities, some of the images have been promptly ripped down and defaced.

On the other side of the gallery, visitors are invited to literally embrace technology by cuddling Device #241, a floppy stuffed animal lined with plush fur and a hollowed-out head. A small screen installed in the empty cavity flashes two sentimental words: hug me. Once the user complies, a montage of romantic Hollywood film scenes appears.

“At first glance, it seems like such a terrifying thing. It’s a large teddy bear with a hole for a face,” notes gallery visitor Sarah Grimm, an interdisciplinary artist who attends Brown. “But it feels really soft and comforting once you go ahead and squeeze it.”

—Abigail Crocker

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