Jon Kessler is an artist known for his kinetic sculptures formed out of ragged machinery and surveillance cameras. His latest installation, The Web, at the Swiss Institute in New York, is a sensory rabbit-hole into to our hyper-connected world.
Walking into Kessler’s installation is like entering a kid’s fort made out of circuit boards, TV monitors, and torn sheets. Everywhere you look something is in motion, and it isn’t long before you realise that these aren’t just disparate moving parts. Everything is connected. The tiny surveillance camera that seems to look at nothing is actually producing meticulously composed images that may appear on a monitor 15m away. As you walk through you are constantly noticing things in one corner affecting things in another corner. It’s as if a Rube Goldberg machine was put through a blender with a bunch of tiny cameras and glued together.
In a bid for interactivity (a buzzword that many artists seek to exploit), Kessler has built an iPhone app that visitors can download as part of the installation. The app lets you take pictures that will appear on various monitors throughout the space. It’s a bit of a gimmick, but does serve its purpose in turning an audience peering through their phones into part of the spectacle.
The Web joins the long line of artistic ventures looking to critique our unrelenting smartphone-obsessed culture. The typical signs and metaphors are all there — the appropriated advertising imagery, the surveillance cams, even a mechanised automaton dummy stroking an ipad. We are slaves to our devices. We know. But no matter how much Kessler’s installation basks in the conventions of cultural critique so ingrained in the art world, the real delight is in the visual and physical cacophony he so artfully constructs.