Hybrid Forms at AMOA-Arthouse seeks to codify new media as a traditional art medium. With contributions from ten artists, the exhibition is anchored by video innovator Nam June Paik’s Zen for TV. First created in 1963, the original work sprang from an accidentally-damaged television with a single line on the screen—a moment of Zen striking through technological barriers. Hybrid Forms offers a varied perspective on the adoption of technology into social consciousness, and as a conduit for creative dialogue.
The show opens with the most lighthearted piece. Book of Lenny from Jonathan Marshall is a short film about life post-apocalypse, told through the lens of a scraggly, haphazard hero with the assistance of a talking bear acting as a spirit guide. The protagonist is stuck navigating a landscape’s watery terrain on a hybrid bicycle-raft, on display in the AMOA-Arthouse lobby. For Marshall, new media is a tool, rather than an end in itself.
Kurt Mueller uses technology more conceptually. Mueller’s American Dream scrolls text from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech across the screen of a karaoke machine. Complete with microphone, American Dream juxtaposes this seminal moment in civil rights history against a piece of technology whose sole function is to mimic the famous.
Susie J. Lee’s Consummation is engrossing. It’s a black-and-white projection of burning strings onto a protruding wall installation. The footage blends seamlessly against the sculpture, with smoking threads moving lithely across the wave-shaped wood. The digital projection over the raised surface enhances the movement captured in the video beautifully. It’s an elegant blending of technology with the handmade.
Hybrid Forms offers a broad range of work that embraces the tools which new media has entrusted to a generation of artists. The digital age’s marking characteristic is the immediacy in which contact is made between the audience and devices; this show both rejects that relationship and exacerbates it. Hybrid Forms is a multifaceted exhibition that depicts an era of electronic innovation through its various stages while simultaneously building expectations for the future of the new media movement.
Caitlin Greenwood is an Austin writer whose work has appeared in …might be good, Pastelegram, and Austinist.