MOCA's 'Superlight' exhibit touches on cultural concerns in mesmerizing ways
by Steven Litt / Plain Dealer Art Critic + http://www.cleveland.com/
Art shows laden with political content were commonplace during the culture wars of the 1990s, a time when artists delighted in poking a finger in every eye.
The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland was a proud participant in the trend, organizing exhibitions on controversial artistic uses of the American flag and the Christian cross.
MOCA is back in the game, but in a softer, more subtle way.
"Superlight," the newest major exhibition at the museum, shows how artists around the country are infusing their work with political, social and cultural content while exploring digital media, mechanical constructions and installations.
The artists in "Superlight" very definitely want to send strong messages, but they don't bang you over the head. They evoke a mesmerizing mood of relaxed awareness, which gets their points across in ways more haunting and effective than a visual harangue.
Curated for MOCA by Steve Dietz, artistic director of last summer's 01SJ Biennial, a global festival of "art on the edge" in San Jose, Calif., the exhibition sets a viewer adrift in a technological amusement park for the mind.
A few steps farther on, viewers encounter installations by Jane Marsching, an assistant professor at the Massachusetts College of Art, who treats global warming in a dreamy, languorous way.
Her 2008 video "Future North," co-produced with Mitchell Joachim of the New York architecture firm Terreform, envisions how cities from New York to Hong Kong could detach themselves from their moorings and float north to a warmed-up North Pole, destined to become hot real estate.
Marsching's "Rising North" considers global climate change by depicting future increases in Arctic temperatures during the next century through a series of colors projected on a gallery wall. The glowing fields of color are accompanied by a recording of an opera singer singing the words from news reports about rising temperatures and sea levels. The effect is oddly tranquil, suggesting, perhaps, how easily dire forecasts can have a numbing effect.