Superhuman vision, once the stuff of comic books and cartoons, is no longer a fantasy. New technologies have pushed the limits of the visible world, allowing us to see almost anything-from the elemental particles of matter to the far reaches of outer space. If both what can be seen and how we see are being radically transformed, what does this mean for the art of the 21st century? Super Vision, the inaugural exhibition at Institute of Contemporary Art's new facility on Boston's waterfront, examines how new ways of seeing influence the work of 27 international artists, in paintings, videos, photographs, and sculptures. Super Vision will be on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art from December 10, 2006 through April 29, 2007.

"The concept of Super Vision is a perfect complement to the building we're unveiling," says Jill Medvedow, Director of the Institute of Contemporary Art. "In the architecture of the ICA, Diller Scofidio + Renfro investigate the changing visual experience of the ICA visitor—from the ways they see the art in the galleries to the ways they see the water through different vantage points and materials."

"Super Vision explores the two faces of this powerful new sense of vision," says Nicholas Baume, Chief Curator. "It's both thrilling and dangerous at once. Technology enables us to see without limits, and in doing so, also changes our perception of reality."

Super Vision brings together the work of many of the most influential international contemporary artists working today. Anish Kapoor, Tony Cragg, James Turrell, and others examine the use of optical effects that alter the way we perceive ourselves and the space around us. Artists like Tony Oursler and Mona Hatoum explore technologies of vision that extend, challenge, and even replace human sight. Jeff Koons, Julie Mehretu, and Thomas Ruff, among others, create a sense of vision that is unbound by physics, biology, or even focus. This limitless vision is both thrilling and threatening-expanding our knowledge and enhancing our experience, yet suggestive of an increasingly dehumanized and troubling world.

Picking up where Op Art pioneer Bridget Riley left off, artists like Andreas Gursky, Anish Kapoor, Ugo Rondinone, and Gabriel Orozco dazzle us with images and forms that bend and twist, manipulating space and stripping away our sense of perspective. Works by Tam Van Tran, Tony Cragg, and Noriko Furunishi merge representation and abstraction, continually morphing from one thing into another. Seen in the context of the 21st century, these illusory affects take on new meaning as our understanding of warped space and new geometries grows. Ricci Albenda, Josiah McElheny, and James Turrell invite us to experience a new dimension where vision is infinite. Albenda's architectural interventions extend out of or into gallery walls, playing with positive and negative space. Albenda compels the viewer to move through the spaces in order to understand them, as with Turrell's New Light, where a seemingly two-dimensional field of color becomes a portal into limitless space.

Tony Oursler, Mona Hatoum, Harun Farocki, and Chantal Akerman investigate technologies of vision in relationship to the human subject. In Hatoum's installation Corps étranger (Foreign Body), the artist employs medical procedures like endoscopy to create a portrait of the inside of her body. Looking where no eye could previously see, the video is a journey into the unfamiliar landscape of the body's interior. While Oursler's series of projections captures the act of looking with giant, disembodied eyeballs, Farocki's film Eye/Machine questions whether mechanized vision-from bombs homing in on their targets to factory production-renders the human eye obsolete. Akerman draws on surveillance images of people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border under cover of night in her video installation, From the Other Side.

The first views of Earth from the Apollo space mission were captivating in their beauty and redefined our collective sense of place and identity. Now anybody with a laptop can use Google Earth's satellite technology to zoom from the stratosphere to their own front door. Technology is transforming the ways artists conceive of the physical world around us. Gerhard Richter, Yoko Ono, and Ed Ruscha draw on ideas of location and mapping, while high-definition imaging lends new intensity to our surroundings, as in Jeff Wall's large-scale photograph Concrete Ball, capturing a level of detail impossible with digital imaging. Sigmar Polke pictures the world on a molecular level, depicting a carbon atom in There is nothing more real than pictures you can't get out of your mind.

Vision technologies are breaking wide open the possibilities for human knowledge and experience, and many artists are exploring the complex effects of these new ways of seeing. Andreas Gursky's digitally manipulated photograph Sha Tin offers a God's-eye view of a Hong Kong racetrack with a level of depth and detail beyond human capacity. The image is stunning, yet impersonal-despite the camera's ability to capture the scene more vividly than any spectator, the race's action can be seen only on the track's jumbo video screen. Jeff Koons, Julie Mehretu, and Thomas Ruff, whose works draw on the visual language of the digital age, allude to the chaotic and potentially volatile energy of today's world, from natural disasters to the explosion of information in cyberspace. A controlling and omnipresent type of vision is seen with the creepy web cam of Albert Oehlen's painting, Dose.

Thus Super Vision comes full circle, having taken the viewer from the perceptual effects of vision to the disembodied technologies of looking, and from new ways of picturing the world to the complex experience of vision as a source of both pleasure and threat. In each of these aspects, artists have taken on the challenge of pushing representation beyond the limits of everyday experience.

The artists in the exhibition include Chantal Akerman, Ricci Albenda, Tony Cragg, Harold Edgerton, Harun Farocki, Noriko Furunishi, Jack Goldstein, Andreas Gursky, Mona Hatoum, Runa Islam, Anish Kapoor, Jeff Koons, Josiah McElheny, Julie Mehretu, Albert Oehlen, Yoko Ono, Gabriel Orozco, Tony Oursler, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter, Bridget Riley, Ugo Rondinone, Thomas Ruff, Ed Ruscha, James Turrell, Tam Van Tran, and Jeff Wall.

Super Vision is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue co-published with MIT Press that includes an essay by curator Nicholas Baume, contributions from several distinguished authors, including art historian David Joselit and media theorist McKenzie Wark, and an interview with architects Elizabeth Diller, Ricardo Scofidio, and Charles Renfro.

Scheduled to open in December 2006, the new ICA on Fan Pier is the first art museum to be built in Boston in almost 100 years. One of New England's most vibrant cultural institutions, the ICA will be the cultural centerpiece of the waterfront and one of the city's most recognized architectural landmarks. The building's dramatic cantilevered design by Diller Scofidio + Renfro integrates the city's HarborWalk into the museum and offers shifting views of the harbor throughout.

Major funding for Super Vision has been provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. Additional support has been provided by Etant donnés: The French-American Fund for Contemporary Art, a program of FACE, and the Cultural Services of the French Embassy. The catalogue is made possible in part by United Technologies Corporation.


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