Complexity and Visual Systems
Art, in both creation and experience, is one of the most complex of human endeavors. Artist Ellen K. Levy engages the mental loop of seeing, connecting, and processing by juxtaposing imagery that creates meaning from unexpected and often disconnected relationships. Printing, painting, and animating images of complex systems relating to society, biology, and economics, she creates visual contexts that critique technological progress gained at the cost of ignoring the importance of the environment and society.
For the past decade, Levy has incorporated renderings of US Patent Office drawings into digital collages made vivid with paint. About her latest series, Re-Inventions, she writes, “Most inventions are reinventions; they spin from developments in prior innovations. In my works I explore unintended consequences of technology and include (re)drafted plans of some of the patented inventions that cause them (e.g., steam engines leading to cumulative carbon dioxide emissions). Some of the patents propose remedies resulting from yet other (patented) technologies (e.g., protection from nuclear radiation).”
Levy, who is based in New York, has been exploring the interrelationships among art, science, and technology through her exhibitions, educational programs, publications, and curatorial work since the mid-1980s. As guest editor of Art Journal in 1996, she published the first widely distributed academic publication on contemporary art and the genetic code. With Charissa Terranova, she is coeditor of D’Arcy Wentworth Thompson’s Generative Influences in Art, Design, and Architecture (Bloomsbury Press, 2021), and with Barbara Larson, she is coeditor of the Routledge book series Science and the Arts since 1750.
Levy’s work is a part of a group exhibition in Vienna titled EXTR-Activism: Decolonising Space Mining, curated by Saskia Vermeylen. More information about the exhibit can be found at https://www.wuk.at/en/events/extr-activism/.
All images courtesy of the artist.