The Wind Tunnel at Art Center Pasadena

October 1, 2004 | Carrie Paterson

Art Center's colossal exhibition space, The Wind Tunnel, opened this summer with an equally gargantuan show. Supersonic featured 120 graduates from 8 of Southern California's top MFA programs (CalArts, Art Center, UC Irvine, UCLA, UC San Diego, Claremont, USC,Otis College of Art and Design) in the space that once housed Cal Tech's Jet engine testing center.

While the administration banked on transcending the region's topography and getting international attention, the students on the ground producing the show struggled to develop exhibition strategies for the 16,000-square-foot space. Though laid out smartly, the show was inevitably difficult to look at for its visual noise. Matt Hope's DJ station with enormous steel loudspeaker seemed an unwitting symbol- while structurally sound, its resonance could not compete with its own scale.

The show left students having to negotiate with the massive legacy of the ultra conservative aerospace industry and its impact on the growth of Southern California. Some creative individual approaches included pre-opening aerial surveillance via remote control airplane by Valerie Tymoczko, an interactive orange grove exhibition by Patrick Marcoux & Ryan Taber and the dirtyflunk collective, which sold souvenirs: I went to Supersonic and all I got was this lousy T-shirt, inside the show at retail price, but out on the sidewalk for a discount.

But Supersonic is really about the future -- where people are going, not how much they paid for it. One thing is quite clear: Supersonic is a sincere effort to congregate the vitality of Southern California, with its diversity, potential,and aggravation. However, should this happen next year, the exhibition might also potentially be a vortex in which different aesthetic values, politics and strategies from the region get crushed together such that differences are harder to distinguish and nuances lost.

There are always some works that speak loud and clear. While surprisingly few artists dealt with representation of the body through technology, a few notable exceptions were Chris Christion, who uses profiling software to create celebrity look alikes, and Claudia Butcher, with cyber jellyfish / self portrait installation from body scans. Other works that stand out include the amusing reverberating ping pong table of Gunner Fox; the Oppenheim-inspired video/performance of Yanira Cartagena; David Riley's 2-channel symphonic distruction of paper bureaucracy; Jed Lind's quiet 2-channel meditation with search lights and the visceral performance/video works of David Khang using cow tongue prostheses.

Flash Art, 2004