Emergence Enchanted

Curated by Stephanie Allespach and Krista Chael 

Long Beach at The Pike at Rainbow Harbor/Phantom Galleries L.A.

95 South Pine Avenue, Long Beach, CA

February 1 – March 29, 2009

Artists:
Lita Albuquerque, Stephanie Allespach, Naomi Buckley, Krista Chael, Cloud Eye Control, Ben Dean, Fallen Fruit, Anne Hars, Micol Hebron, Parichard Holm & Ryan Zufryden, Daniel Marlos, Miwa Matreyek, Molly Millar, Tricia Lawless Murray, Anna Oxygen, Nora Jean Petersen, Nancy Popp, Semiconductor, Elizabeth Tremante

Emergence Enchanted presents a collection of artists who engage with the curiosities of science through a variety of practices. Whether inspired by new technologies, science fiction, or shifts within our environment, all of these artists produce unique works that instigate discourse, not only about art, but also about science. In conjunction with the first occurrence of the T.E.D. (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference in Long Beach, California, Emergence Enchanted is devoted to producing an inquisitive exchange of ideas and widening the scope of contemporary interdisciplinary vision.

 

As a major gateway for the West coast, the city of Long Beach is the perfect host for T.E.D.’s annual exchange of ideas. Not only because of this massive seaport’s importance for economies of transport and trade, but also because of its industrial history, from oil production to auto and aerospace manufacturing, which have produced some of the worst environmental problems in the country. A setting for difficult truths, T.E.D. takes on such uncomfortable discoveries, and responds with unique solutions to sometimes-frightening dilemmas. 

 

The Performing Arts Center complex, where T.E.D. is held, is an extension of The Pike at Rainbow Harbor, a historical 369,000 square foot waterfront district located in downtown Long Beach. With a variety of venues including a comedy club, arcade, movie theater, Ferris wheel and carousel, this outdoor mall operates as a mainstream entertainment park. The exhibition Emergence Enchanted engages with this landscape through its use of four vacant retail spaces and one outdoor site-specific installation. These locations presented the rare opportunity to re- contextualize a consumerist space for an extraordinary exchange. 

 

At first glance, the conventional structure of The Pike at Rainbow Harbor reflects little of its spectacular origins. The prior Long Beach Pike, in the same Rainbow Harbor location, was an amusement park constructed in 1911 by the famous carousel inventor/manufacturer Charles I.D. Looff. The park began as a single enormous carousel. By the height of its operation it blossomed into a menagerie of arcades and rides of all varieties, including the “Cyclone Racer,” a massive roller coaster that extended hundreds of feet over the water. By the 1920s, Rainbow Harbor was also home to a public outdoor meeting known as “the Spit and Argue Club,” a daily forum in which any speaker could get 10 minutes of attention on a given subject and was allowed to continue longer only if enough of the crowd raised their hands in approval. So the site’s history as a venue for lively discourse long predates T.E.D. and Emergence Enchanted.

 

This older Pike was likely inspired by yet another predecessor. It is speculated that Looff, as an amusement manufacturer, attended the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair, home to the “original” Pike : a mile-long stretch of amusements, street performers, and the latest scientific discoveries. The fair was mounted for the centennial celebration of the Louisiana Purchase, America’s first major step toward its own brand of global manifest destiny. While the intention of this fair was profit through amusement, it catered to the growing desire of the average citizen to see a bigger picture of the world, and as a result, it holds an interesting historical relationship to the idea of expanding the scope of contemporary vision, and more specifically to T.E.D Talks. 

 

Many theorists wrestling with the history of the visual and concepts of representation, from Walter Benjamin to Jonathan Crary, have written about World’s Fairs and International Expos. Though most often discussed alongside the notion of spectacle, these fairs also represent society’s struggle to understand itself within the growing web of global inter-relations. These kinds of grandiose exhibitions of “progress” that arose around the turn of the 20th century represented a colonial vision of exploitation that continues into the 21st century. T.E.D. attempts to break from these Victorian notions by mapping our changing world, by acknowledging a need for constant evaluation, and by insisting that we, as individuals, be responsible actors in these processes. As artists participating in the production of contemporary vision, we are of course interested in these matters.

 

Art explores the liminal spaces that technology and science often attempt to quantify—the various subjective explorations of human experience. Through unraveling and indexing subjective inquiries in a shared reality, artists can inform scientific investigation with their most powerful tool: imagination. Intuitively, many artists look to science as a way of informing their practices. They revel in its mysteries, explanations, and abstract theories. This sort of cross-pollination can bear curious fruit and the function of this exhibition is to examine a range of artists working in this way.  Throughout the months of February and March 2009, twenty artists intervened within the neighborhood of The Pike at Rainbow Harbor. By introducing a range of conceptual and experiential artworks across this setting, Emergence Enchanted not only breathed new life into the space itself, but also challenged the passive consumerist reality normally found there.

 

- Stephanie Allespach and Krista Chael

Inspired by and coinciding with the first Technology, Entertainment and Design (T.E.D.) Conference in Long Beach.

Review - T.E.D. Blog  and The District Weekly, Long Beach