The Beall Center for Art + Technology presents Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art
Difference Machines addresses the complex relationship between the technologies we use and the identities we inhabit
The Beall Center for Art + Technology is pleased to announce Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art, opening January 28 through April 29, 2023. This marks the second iteration and the first of three tour stops throughout the United States for the exhibition.
In response to ongoing conversations about systemic inequities, Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art presents a diverse group of seventeen artists and collectives who creatively reimagine the digital tools that shape our lives. The exhibition includes projects that span the last three decades, ranging from software-based and internet art to animated videos, bioart experiments, digital games, and 3-D printed sculptures.
Together, these works explore the aesthetic and social potential of emerging technologies. Some emphasize how digital tools can be repurposed to tell more inclusive stories or imagine new ways of being. Others show how becoming visible within digital systems can be a trap that leads to the technological exclusion, surveillance, and exploitation of marginalized communities. Dynamic and interactive, these projects transform the space in the gallery into a laboratory for reflecting on and experimenting with our increasingly powerful “difference machines” in the hopes of achieving a more equitable future.
The exhibition is co-curated by University at Buffalo Professor Paul Vanouse and Buffalo AKG Art Museum Curator Tina Rivers Ryan, who bring to the project over thirty years of experience working with media art, as well as their own personal experience of how technology can both help and harm marginalized communities.
“Since Difference Machines opened in Buffalo in the fall of 2021, the question of how technology shapes and reflects identity has become both more mainstream and more urgent,” explains Ryan. “We are grateful to our institutional partners for ensuring that more people will have the opportunity to experience these moving, thought-provoking artworks, and to imagine how we might work through the uses and abuses of technology towards a more equitable future.”
While recent exhibitions around the world have surveyed the impact of technology on the arts or examined what it means to be human in the digital age, Difference Machines is the first large-scale exhibition at a major museum to explore the connections between technology and systemic inequity, as manifested in problems like algorithmic bias and digital redlining.
“I’m interested in artists who recognize that technologies are social, active, and value-laden and not neutral tools, and who can leverage these qualities to take on larger questions and broader issues,” said Vanouse. “We especially wanted to emphasize that artists who work with technology can be critical of it—while simultaneously expanding our horizons of what technology, and art, can be.”
A public opening reception will take place on Saturday, January 28, 2–5 p.m. at the Beall Center for Art + Technology on the UCI Claire Trevor School of the Arts campus. Admission is free and open to the public. For inquiries or to schedule a guided tour, please contact Associate Director Fatima Manalili at firstname.lastname@example.org or (949) 824-6206.
For visitor protocols related to COVID-19 and up-to-date information, please visit the UCI Forward website at uci.edu/coronavirus.
Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art is supported by The Beall Family Foundation.
Image: Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley, WE ARE HERE BECAUSE OF THOSE THAT ARE NOT, 2020; Digital game displayed on projector; gaming chair; pink lights; and vinyl text. Courtesy of the artist. Photo: Tina Rivers Ryan for Buffalo AKG Art Museum.
David Familian, Beall Center Artistic Director