Ilya Illich’s 1973 Tools for Conviviality set an example for the potential utilitarian ethics of the technological age. He advocated for the responsible use of technology, and the development of advanced new methods for the consumption of knowledge. In “Gordian Conviviality,” nine artists who all work with and within technology address the responsible role of new tools for making art. The tools for creating digital work are becoming increasingly easy to use, and the novelty of the materials is no longer enough to warrant display. Meaningful art comes from a nuanced approach to creating work that not only utilizes the newest innovations in technology, but also is thoughtful and considerate of its place in the linear motion of art history.
The artists in “Gordian Conviviality” make art using technology, as opposed to using art as a way to display technology. Taking advantage of the materials afforded them, including the most recent RED cameras, 1080 HDTV, .gifs, laser prints on photo paper, as well as obsolete pencil plotters, all of the works in the show use technological means to make beautiful objects. While the works are obviously put together using these methods, they are not primarily about the tools of their construction.
Grouping work through the abstract approach of evaluating the motivations behind the use of materials is messy in its own right, as it creates Gordian, or potentially unsolvable, levels of confusion and inconsistency. The pleasure of the viewing experience comes from trying to untangle the mess, and the only true means of organizing the chaos is by cheating and cutting it at some point. The positions of Gordian Conviviality are not presented as an answer to questions and frustrations surrounding the use of technology to make art, but rather as a challenge and opportunity to make sense of what is an impossible inquiry; the satisfaction is not in the disentangling, but in the attempts to do so.