TEL AVIV.- In the first Futurist Manifesto, which was published in 1909, the Italian poet Philippe Tommaso Marinetti called to destroy the old, to cease longing for the past, and to march forward towards the future. In this manifesto, Marinetti celebrated technology and progress as symbols of movement and of a new awakening. The technological changes of the early 20th century were paralleled by radical changes in art: the use of new industrial materials, the introduction of movement into sculpture, and a concern with various aspects of modern society. The destruction and death wrought by the two World Wars led to a disenchantment with the notion of progress and revealed the monstrous aspects of technology, which came to elicit a mixture of attraction and repulsion.
The exhibition "WYSIWYG: What You See Is What You Get" is concerned with the ambivalent treatment of technology in the art of the digital age. This exhibition features 14 artists who are concerned with the political, mystical, and poetic limits of mechanisms in art. Most of the works share a similar low-tech aesthetic shaped by the use of old objects and useless spare parts, and involve the creation of kinetic sculptural environments or "homemade" mechanical hybrids that result in various forms of disruption or destruction. These works are imbued with a spirit of invention, humor, and fantasy bordering on catastrophe, while probing the limits between art and science, the economy and the body, rationalism and disaster.
The recent interest in kinetic art among Israeli artists has not evolved out of an idealization of progress. Rather, it is related to the formation of a subversive or sentimental "vintage aesthetic," and to the rise of ecological, nostalgic, and anti-capitalist trends both within and outside the art world. An esthetic based on obsolete, low-tech, "primitive" technologies and the use of "low" materials culled from the sphere of industrial, everyday reality is increasingly noticeable in the works of young contemporary artists, while echoing early 20th century avant-garde movements such as Dada and Surrealism. The products of this trend are not "pretty," perfectly finished machines, but rather intentionally sloppy, unfinished works. The battered aesthetic of these works is born of the noises and sights of everyday life, in the realm of the banal and the quotidian; it resists the linear movement of time in favor of motion in closed circuits that lead nowhere, while engendering barren, impotent mechanisms.
The expression "What You See Is What You Get" is related to specific forms of observation and reception. Frequently used in the popular media, and especially in advertising, it refers to the congruence between the image on a product's packaging and what lies inside that is, to the compatibility between the image and reality, exterior and interior. In the digital age, this expression also refers to computer programs that establish a tangible visual connection between the program's complex digital operations and its packaging.
In contrast to the slogan "What you see is what you get," the works featured in this exhibition suggest that the object does not always truly reveal what is hidden on its interior, and that what you see is not really what you get. Some of the participating artists work with the concept of "reverse engineering," decoding the mechanisms and technological principles underlying various devices in order to create a new product with a similar mechanism. In this context, a functioning device is transformed into a faltering mechanism using tactics of penetration, dismantlement, disruption, and transgression.