Installation view of deus ex machina

Martha Whittington: deus ex machina

2011/2012 Working Artist Project (WAP)
Music by Jon Ciliberto & performance collaboration by Beacon Dance
Exhibition Dates: July 28 – October 26, 2012
Opening Reception: Friday, July 27th / Artist Talk: Thursday, August 30th
Beacon Dance performance schedule: August 1, 9, 18, 22 / September 8, 12, 20, 29 / October 6

MOCA GA 2011/2012 Working Artist Project selected by Michael Rooks, Wieland Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

Click here to view more work by Martha Whittington in the MOCA GA Permanent Collection.


ArtsATL / Martha Whittington’s meaningless labor, pointless activity, humans as machine

BURNAWAY / Martha Whittington and Beacon Dance Seek Gods in Machine

AJC / Artist’s point well-suited to our times

About Martha Whittington

Martha Whittington (b. 1963 in Gainesville, Florida) received her BFA in Sculpture from the Kansas City Art Institute. She received her MFA in Sculpture from Tyler School of Art, where she studied with sculptor Winifred Lutz. Ms. Whittington has been the recipient of artist residencies at the Bemis Center in Omaha Nebraska and the Hambidge Center-Creative Arts in Rabun Gap Georgia. In support of her work, she has been awarded grants from the Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia, Office of Cultural Affairs Atlanta and Austin Green. She has exhibited her work both nationally and internationally with shows at Moot Gallery, Hong Kong, Museum of Contemporary Art Jacksonville Florida, Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia, and the AMOA-Laguna Gloria Austin Texas. Her work is held in the collections of Jun and Ree Kaneko, Jim Leedy of Leedy Voulkos Art Center, Susan Bridges, Museum of Contemporary Art Georgia and Savannah College of Art and Design. Ms. Whittington is a Professor of Foundations Studies at the Savannah College of Art and Design. Her Studio Apprentices were Nathan Sharratt and Jiovnni Tallington.


About 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

ABOUT Beacon Dance
Beacon Dance, based in Decatur, GA, seeks to engage our community through performance in unexpected and surprising ways. Under the direction of D. Patton White since 1990, Beacon has not only actively questioned the definition of dance, but also the many ways in which audiences may engage with movement as performance. Beacon is committed to addressing the oppression often present in the dance world, by broadening our ensemble of performers to include people with a range of physical abilities, as well as a range of ages. Beacon is recognized within the greater Atlanta community as a progressive leader of the contemporary dance and performance scene. Beacon has presented numerous major site-specific performances since 1993, and has developed strong relationships with a number of community partner organizations over the years, including Dancers Collective, the Decatur Recreation Department, City Gallery East, The Decatur Arts Alliance, DeKalb County Parks and Recreation Department, Emory University and Art on the Atlanta Beltline.

ABOUT Jon Ciliberto
Jon Ciliberto is an Atlanta-based artist who grew up in New Jersey, Nashville, and Atlanta. Raised by artists, Ciliberto played music from an early age. He received a BA from Vanderbilt University in Nashville and while attending as a student he worked at the school’s radio station, WRVU, establishing an overnight ‘free form’ format. Ciliberto received an MA from the University of Hawai’i in Manoa and lived in Oahu for six years. Now in Atlanta, he works as a freelance musician/composer and graphic designer. Ciliberto as currently serves as chief editor and writer for Buddhist Art News, a weblog which gathers news on Buddhist art, architecture, film, and archaeology. He is also working toward a law degree at Georgia State University.