Shih Chieh Huang | Connected: Eject Before Disconnecting
WALL PANEL Shih Chieh Huang (b. 1975 in Taipei, Taiwan; lives and works in Brooklyn, NY) Connected: Eject before disconnecting, 2009 Mixed media Dimensions variable Courtesy the artist and Virgil de Voldère Gallery, New York
Shih Chieh Huang’s site-specific installation combines everyday objects such as electronic appliances, toys, and plastic bags with video footage and ephemeral materials from air to water to light to evoke a futuristic living organism. The work’s title-Connected: Eject before disconnecting-appropriates a common Apple iPod and Mac computer message to suggest metaphorically the instability of connections between people, places, and bodies in today’s everchanging global culture. Mutually dependent, the installation’s disparate parts are also unstable and unpredictable: kinetic parts and motion sensors put the work in a constant state of flux that responds to the movements of the viewer, reflecting Huang’s description of his work as an “interchanging process between people and space.”
Shih Chieh Huang’s work injects art with science and technology. The artist creates site-specific installations that combine high-tech and everyday recycled materials with handyman aesthetics to form environments that are simultaneously playful, graceful, dynamic, fragile, and uncanny. Huang constructed Connected: Eject before disconnecting specifically for the Spalter New Media Gallery, conjuring a curious universe resembling some funky, futuristic sci-fi movie set transferred to a museum space. Electronic elements—computer parts, remote controls, motion sensors, and portable DVD players—merge with familiar objects such as toys, plastic bags, hardware-store goods, and dismantled household appliances to suggest the overwhelming influence of technology in our daily lives. Liquids, air, and lighting infuse the resulting network of parts with a sense of organic artifice, evoking a robotic body circulating energy as it glows and grows from the gallery’s ceiling. Videos—featuring split and multiplied footage of wandering and blinking eyes, observing and being observed—clinch the impression of being inside an eerie transhuman organism.
In titling his work the artist appropriated a message familiar to users of Apple iPods and Mac computers. When “Connected: Eject before disconnecting” appears on the screen, it warns the user that an external device is still connected to the computer and should be properly removed to avoid malfunction. Like the various hard- and software of computer systems, the kinetic components of Huang’s installations are mutually dependent, but they are also unpredictable. Spectacles of cause and effect and constant flux, they are unstable by nature: disconnection might result in damage, loss, or some erratic event. Read metaphorically, the title might refer to the threat of disconnection within the earth’s ecosystem or global culture. Interactive and responsive to the viewer’s movements, Connected: Eject before disconnecting inspires a multisensory, poetic, and personal experience. It manifests mixed feelings of optimism, entrapment, and anxiety—a result of our growing dependence on technology and the ever more rapid changes in our world.