The title of Erin Ko's interactive exhibition PRESENT, at The Gallery 4, can be interpreted in three distinct ways.
The first way reflects verb tense: PRESENT joins past and future through the travel of time as well as space. Works combine images of current technology, space-age musings on the future and the archeology of the ancient in a mash-up that hails graphic design of the atomic era and artifacts of the Stone Age, filtered through the appliances of right now. Astronauts in lotus position hover in blurry galaxies and tumble in zero gravity; nuclear families don spacesuits and smile with pearly teeth in the brave new world of rocket launches and interplanetary exploration; slate tablets bear the fossilized echoes of long-departed creatures of bygone eras.
The next reading most simply means "being in attendance." But here, that can transcend physical location to include being mentally tuned in and involved. Ko, who's based in Mexico, has created an app that gallery visitors can download to their phones, iPads, etc., that transforms and animates the work, connecting the viewer to it in new ways. (Visitors lacking personal devices may borrow in-house gadgets.) What appeared to be wall-mounted slabs of stone engage and vibrate with scrolling binary code. Beaming cosmonauts link you to videos and songs. Triptychs turn into comic panels, with mutating voice bubbles narrating the tale. Fragments fall three-dimensionally onto the gallery floor like crumbling ruins, a Coke bottle explodes in effervescence and, in the pièce de résistance, a black-and-white world erupts with color, and a thrilling surprise visit will make the viewer giddy.
The final significance of the show's appellation might not have entered the artist's head, but certainly applies: "PRESENT" as in "gift." The application you downloaded is now yours, and is not limited to usage for this particular show. It allows you access to the secrets of Ko's work in other exhibitions and print media, and, should you end up owning a work, permits you to see your art evolve: Ko has the ability to alter the programs from her end, so it's entirely possible that one day your piece will do something different.
Since opening in 2010, The Gallery 4 has been steadily cementing its place as one of the most consistently intriguing visual-art venues in the area. PRESENT reinforces that reputation.