First published in Artnews, November 1998, National Reviews section, p. 170.
Eduardo Kac at Aldo Castillo, Chicago
The work of Brazilian-born Eduardo Kac (pronounced Katz) is perhaps less familiar to gallery-goers than it is to surfers on the Internet, where the artist maintains a Web-site. An experimental poet, Kac uses computer, video, and even robotics to explore ways that technology affects meaning.
The audacious show "Language Works" a sampling of the artist's production since 1990, featured a hologram, two videos, a set of Iris inkjet prints, and a computer terminal where visitors could operate six programs, including those dealing with animation and virtual reality. Not surprisingly, the exhibition also appeared on the Web (www.ekac.org/castillo.html).
In each work, Kac is less concerned with exact definition than suggestion. A trio of Iris prints from the 1994 "Erratum" series, for instance, consists of, barely discernible word pairs, like "mind/wind" and "knife/night." that are camouflaged amid layers of computer-generated texture and garish electronic color. There's also the "holopoem" Amalgam (1990), which literally liberates language from the printed page by giving it sculptural form and projecting it into space and time. As the observer changes perspective while viewing this reflected-light hologram, the words "flower/void" turn into "vortex/flow." With the visual transitions -- letters seem to dissolve or become a jumble of overlapping shapes, fading in and out -- the artist intends for subtle transitions in meaning to occur.
More evocative are Kac's, digital computer works. In Insect Desperto (1995), English words rapidly blink on and off in various areas of a dark screen, creating a staccato optical rhythm while a recording of someone speaking Portuguese is heard. In Wine (1996), words written in a shaky cursive on a pale red field appear and disappear, sometimes along the edge of the screen--their hesitancy and indecisiveness implying inebriated attempts at meaning that result in vague fleeting associations. It's here, at the edges of language art, and technology, that Kac's work deftly explores word and image.
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