The spring season programme at Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art (MIMA) explores the intersection between ancient geology and new technology. It grows from the exhibition Liquid Crystal Display (21 February – 16 June) which proposes that we live in a crystal era in which the images we share are supported by prehistoric mineral technologies.
Liquid Crystal Display
Historically associated with mystical healing, gazing and alchemical practices, crystals are prevalent in everyday technology including computers, mobile phones and state-of-the-art medical equipment. At the heart of a laser-beam is a vibrating crystal. Touch-screen technologies and the optical cables that keep us connected are all enabled by this extraordinary material substance known for polarising light and conducting electricity.
Travelling from Sheffield’s Site Gallery, the exhibition has been expanded to include minerals from the Middlesbrough area and works from the Middlesbrough Collection held at MIMA. New additions draw on themes of extraction, mineral exploitation and the sensual appeal of sparkling objects from the deep. Following several years of research, the show is co-curated by MIMA’s new Director Laura Sillars with Angelica Sule from Site Gallery, where Sillars was previously Artistic Director. Sillars states:
“Crystals are part of the invisible infrastructure of the technologies that support our advanced contemporary life of communications, medicine and science. We see technology as shiny and new, but it is underpinned by ancient minerals. Artists such as John Ruskin and Robert Smithson were fascinated by the collision of the mythic and the momentary, and artists working today mine the same territory of ideas. From ecology to geo-political issues of mineral extraction, the exhibition also suggests that the technicolour images which captivate us on our mobile devices are themselves unique products of light polarising minerals.”
Liquid Crystal Display takes shape around an ambitious new sculptural display device by artist Anna Barham, titled Crystal Fabric Field and which holds the work of artists and scientists. Barham’s structure, based on the fundamental geometric form of naturally growing crystals, operates as a cabinet of curiosities, housing artworks by 26 other artists. The works examine and observe a liquid crystal phenomena and reveal the mystical properties of objects. They link technology and the natural world and explore links between crystal, capital and contemporary culture.
Artists include; Waad AlBawardi; Conrad Atkinson; Lise Autogena & Joshua Portway; Ralf Baecker; Anna Barham; Karen David; The Crystal World (Jonathan Kemp, Martin Howse and Ryan Jordan);Ângela Ferreira; Hermann Jünger; Liliane Lijn; Ann Lislegaard; Matterlurgy; Penny McCarthy; Otobong Nkanga; The Otolith Group; Mungo Ponton; Wendy Ramshaw; Eva Rothschild; John Ruskin; Shimabuku; Kiki Smith; Robert Smithson; Suzanne Treister; Lisa Walker and Jennifer West. A selection of minerals from the Dorman Museum Geological Collection brings a local perspective at the area’s mineral heritage.
MIMA produces a wide-reaching range of activities with the community. A public programme of talks and events developed around the overarching themes of minerals, magic and machines in relation to the environment, draws together artists, scientists and technologists.
A book, available for £5.00, accompanies the exhibition. It includes an introduction by Laura Sillars, an extract of an interview between academic and curator, Jussi Parikka and Jeanine Griffin and a text on Liquid Crystal by Professor Esther Leslie.