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The art of gadgetry

Paul Vanouse, whose work will show at UCI's Beall Center, finds inspiration in technology.

January 31, 2013|By Rhea Mahbubani
  • "Suspect Inversion Center," from the exhibition Paul Vanouse, "Fingerprints..." at the Schering Foundation in Berlin, curated by Jens Hauser. Pictured are performers Paul Vanouse and Kerry Sheehan.
"Suspect Inversion Center," from the exhibition… (Courtesy Axel Heise,…)

Light boxes. Electrophoresis gels. Enzymes. DNA images.

No, we aren't taking inventory of laboratory equipment.

These are components of Paul Vanouse's "Evidence…Works," which will be exhibited at UC Irvine's Claire Trevor School of the Arts starting Thursday. Hosted by the Beall Center for Art + Technology, the artist's "BioArt," as he calls it, will be on display until May 4.

A resident of Buffalo, N.Y., Vanouse demonstrated an early interest in artwork that employed interactive machines. Driven by curiosity, he honed in on technology that surrounded him and imbued it with creative flair.

"My intention has always been to use new technology and force it to be an artistic medium," said Vanouse, 45. "We expect technology to tell us something essential about our identities and lives, and instead I show that it is a much more plastic form of representation than people understand."

Inspired by Jenny Holzer, an American conceptual artist whose innovative LED signs popped up in the '80s and '90s, Vanouse switched over to biological artwork nearly 15 years ago. A believer that materials themselves are loaded with meanings, he creates installation pieces with a social commentary that is both provocative and critical.

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His projects, typically constructed from multiple individual pieces, can take nearly two years to finish.

"My pieces are ephemeral and when you make things in new mediums, a lot of collectors and museums are not even sure how to display the objects, let alone to conserve or establish their value," said Vanouse, who has funded his ventures himself or with the help of grants and rewards.

At the Beall Center show, his largest in the United States, Vanouse, an associate professor of art at the University of Buffalo, will present a mixture of contemporary forms — a live experiment, some static pieces that are already complete and a fully functioning laboratory where he or his collaborators will work on new projects.

The idea behind "Evidence…Works" is to provide a venue for people to see work being produced in real time. The artist will be on-site at an opening reception from 6 to 9 p.m. Thursday and at a roundtable discussion from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday. He will return again in mid-March.

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