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A rhino, apes and pigeons are part of ZOOVEILLANCE in New West

ZOOVEILLANCE at New Westminster’s New Media Gallery questions how we move forward in a constantly changing world of technology.
Art by Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg is featured in a new exhibition at the New Media Gallery. Shown here is an installation view of The Substitute in 'Apocalypse - End Without End' at Natural History Museum, Bern, 2022.

What do AI, social media and robotics have to do with art? They’re all part of the newest exhibition at the New Media Gallery.

ZOOVEILLANCE – an observation on the paradox of technological advancement – is coming to the New Media Gallery from Feb. 18 until May 5. 

“Extensive research into artificial intelligence or social media inform three extraordinary works by Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg, Mat Collishaw and Marco Barotti,” said a notice about the exhibition. “The works address the evolution of two formidable, hyper-transformative technologies, rooted in the 20th century and now blossoming in the 21st  ... artificial intelligence and social media.”

According to the notice, three animal species are presented through video and sound, code and robotic installations. 

“There is a poignancy to these apparitions; the reactive apes, the conditioned pigeons and a critically endangered northern white rhino. Their behaviour is spellbinding, performative, ritualistic; suggesting an uneasy or dysfunctional association with AI or social media,” said the notice. “None of the animals may be separated from its host; all are bound to their technology in some way. The works encourage us to reflect on the paradox of technology; tremendous potential (vs.) unsettling narratives, observations and data.”  

An opening reception and artist talk for ZOOVEILLANCE is on Saturday, Feb. 17; it features a talk by Barotti, one of the artists featured in the exhibition, from 1 to 2 p.m. in the ballroom, followed by an exhibition opening from 2 to 4 p.m. There will be a cash bar at this event, which is free and suitable for all ages.

Sarah Joyce, director/curator at the gallery, said New Media Gallery is proud to have brought three phenomenal artists together for ZOOVEILLANCE.

“Walking into the exhibition you’ll find yourself in a long atrium with a bench.  You are immediately confronted with a glass menagerie or perhaps it is a research lab,” she said. “The design refers to the title ZOOVEILLANCE and to what the artists are trying to communicate. Inside the rooms of this glass menagerie are three installations.”

Visitors to the New Media Gallery can enter each room or choose to sit on the long atrium bench to observe and listen, Joyce said.

“In the atrium you will find video monitors describing the science and research behind Marco Barotti’s work,” she said. “There is sound associated with each of the works – each is multi-sensorial.  If you’re sitting in the atrium you will hear the sounds of the reconstructed white rhino as it snorts and paces in its small room. In the other two rooms you will hear the digitally constructed sound of the apes as they begin to shake and scream, or the more delicate pecking sound of the caged birds as they endlessly search for food rewards.  You will immediately sense the confined quality of the animals.”

According to Joyce, the artists in this exhibition have researched and used complex technologies, including AI, social media and robotics.

“Artists at this level often have assistance in developing their works. Some run studios. Artists who create such complex works must tap into the expertise of many different technology and subject matter professionals, scientists, and researchers,” she explained. “The result is an exhibition with three stunning works that questions how we move forward in a constantly changing world of technology.”

“Exceptional artists”

The New Media Gallery previously presented the work of Collishaw in 2017.

“His exhibition history is impressive,” Joyce said. “He is receiving exceptional praise in London for an exhibition which includes the work we showed at New Media Gallery. The Sunday Times calls his work ‘visually miraculous’, the Evening Standard ‘digital magic’, the Financial Times ‘a visual extravaganza with a mind and a heart’.”

Barotti studied music, and now works across many different contemporary visual art and sound media.  

Ginsberg is an accomplished and award-winning researcher, designer and artist. She will be giving a virtual artist talk (on Zoom) during International Women's Month; it's on Friday, March 8, from 10 to 11 a.m.

Joyce noted that the New Media Gallery is the only civic gallery in Canada with a sole focus on new media and technology-based art. Now in its tenth year, she said the gallery is grateful to have developed a very loyal following.

“Each of our 32 exhibitions has been curated in-house; we present exceptional artists from all over the world,” she said. “Some of our most popular exhibitions consider the links between art and science.”

Joyce said the gallery is deeply committed to helping visitors connect with contemporary art and exhibitions.

“Regulars know that we love making exhibitions and discussing art and ideas in the gallery. We learn so much from our visitors,” she said. “If you allow it, art galleries have the potential to be very special gathering places of thought and discussion. Art is meaningful; in our 10 years with New Media Gallery we have witnessed some incredibly moving encounters with works of art.”

New Media Gallery, located in Anvil Centre at 777 Columbia St., is open Wednesday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., with a late opening till 8 p.m. on Thursdays.