Symbols, Images and Figures, Computers and Software, Ancient Mythology, and one Giant_ an extraordinary digital exhibition currently premiers at a Tel Aviv gallery.
Several years ago I travelled by plane to the Greek island of Rhodes, just like an average tourist. Rhodes is a beautiful island, loaded with ancient memories, myths and heroic adventures. The next time I go it will surely be by ship, because that’s how you should arrive to an island. A fantasy: The year: 280 B.C. We are rowing towards the giant port of Rhodes in a fast galley ship. From a distance, straddling the harbor entrance, a gigantic figure beckons to us, growing larger as we approach. Now we make out that it is the giant figure of the sun god, Helios. One hand rests on his hip, while the other shades his eyes as he scans the horizon.
Welcome to the Colossus, a giant bronze and marble statue which towered to a height of 34 meters, and was built by the citizens of ancient Rhodes to commemorate their victory over a formidable enemy who had besieged the city. The Colossus of Rhodes would later be counted as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
Here is one of the more ancient drawings of the Colossus, which was destroyed by an enormous earthquake 56 years after it was built.
(Click to enlarge)
While today we build giants far larger than this one, the Colossus of Rhodes is engraved in our civilisation as the original and quintessential giant from which all others are derived. I saw just such a giant the other evening at a Tel Aviv gallery, at the premiere of an extraordinary exhibit by the artist Miri Chais titled: “Colossus”.
Reaching the gallery from my parking space did not require me to arrive by sea in a galley ship, but only to cross several small streets and a leafy boulevard in Tel Aviv. Gazing up at the giant that dominates this exhibit, one made up of lenses and perspect and which rises to a height of three meters, I thought I could hear the faint roar of the Macedonian army storming the city walls outside.
But for all that, the Colossus of Tel Aviv is a different sort of giant. Rather than a sun god, this one seems to be a God of technology. On the wall facing the God is a colorful, moving video stream, full of icons, symbols, figures and logos from what could be described as the digital experience of the new world.
The broad, tumultuous tableau spills down the wall like molten lava from a volcano, flows across the floor, rumbling and seething. The river of data continues slowly towards the God and finally disappears at its feet as though it had never existed.
The pictures and colors flowing in this river are forever shifting and changing according to the movement of visitors in the gallery which is picked up by sensors in the walls, and the viewer’s reality is constantly transformed.
What is this all about? Miri talks to me about a world of figures and icons, as well as a world of excess and multiplication and, what she call, the new new man. Hanging on the walls are human figures illustrating the kinds of people she is talking about. The idea that comes to my mind is one of Technological Evolution. There is no doubt that our world is undergoing dramatic changes, at least insofar as our perception of space and time is concerned.
The phenomena of the personal computer and the internet have shattered all of the old boundaries and divisions, and redefined what we once thought was the regular pace of technology and this thing called modernity. The Colossus itself is made up of the raw materials of this revolution, such as Perspect (the primary material in computer screens), camera lenses, sensors, software, computers, and images. Lots of images.
This new reality is changing and reinventing itself all the time. Every minute we are subjected to an onslaught of data and stimuli of every conceivable kind. A child growing up today is, among other things, a product of this explosion- for better or worse. Some technologists predict that as early as the present century we may arrive at a point where we will lose control of the technology that we are developing. A sort of Technological Apocalypse..
Are these a new kind of human beings?
Is Chais’ Colossus – this monster of technology – good or evil? I suppose it depends on the viewer. As I gaze into the multi-colored river of information disappearing at the giant’s feet, I’m struck by the idea of eternal nourishment. Wait! Could it be that the statue is actually growing? Will its head soon burst through the ceiling of the gallery and continue on towards the sky?
With that, I took my leave of the Colossus and headed towards the port in search of the next available galley ship.