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Martha Whittington: deus ex machina

Jul 28, 2012 - Oct 6, 2012
10am - 5pm

2011/2012 Working Artist Project

Martha Whittington is a 2011/2012 Working Artist Project Fellow selected by Michael Rooks, curator from The High Museum of Art.

Martha Whittington: deus ex machina

“Recalling the moment when machines became gods and workers became machines, deus ex machina is a precisely constructed environment of obscurely comprehensible machines and devices. Dancers as workers react within the installation, performing tasks for reasons and results that can only be implied by the viewer. The audience is challenged to make perhaps uncomfortable decisions regarding the meaning and purpose of the devices and the actions.

The artist’s palette has been reduced to somber tones and industrial materials: heavy wool felt, stainless steel, weighted sailcloth, leather, and netting, referencing traditional modes of early industry. The viewer will be able to identify the denotation of some kinds of action or labor: a cart, ladders, tables, buckets, and rope which imply function; yet the intense toil that utilizes these objects produces no discernible end result. Other devices and objects, such as a hand-operated victrola and stainless steel orbs, unexpectedly appear, their usefulness posing extended questions whose answers are just out of reach, a reference to modern industry in which laborers are trapped in process and never see the end result of their work. An overseer perched aboard an exquisite cart endlessly counts time and task as dancers in a wide range of ages perform, testament to the requirement to labor continuously, with rest and retirement removed as options.

The objects and devices in deus ex machina have been meticulously, manually constructed from rough hewn to finish, in a manner similar to traditional factory methods, much like the sweat shops and sewing factories of past. The artist in process has paralleled the labor-intensive actions of the dancers/workers within the installation’s environment. Although craft is often regarded as taboo within contemporary art, this installation celebrates the beauty of fine crafting as well as the rigorous struggle to produce a work of this nature.”

– Martha Whittington

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