This June, as part of its 40th anniversary, Public Art Fund will present Earth Potential, a new exhibition by emerging Estonian artist Katja Novitskova. Her first major institutional show and outdoor commission in the United States, the exhibition will transform Lower Manhattan’s City Hall Park into a surreal landscape with a new series of seven large, flat cut aluminum sculptures. Featuring online-sourced, digitally-printed imagery, the works layer alien-like, yet terrestrial animals and organisms over celestial bodies and planets. By creating images at once scientific and poetic, these dramatic, visual objects expose worlds unseen by the naked eye yet indispensable to human advancement. The flatness of the sculptures replicates the experience of viewing images online, while the imagery and its connotations—from science fiction to achievements in image making—will encourage visitors to consider how developments in technology have changed our perceptions of the natural world. Earth Potential will be on view from June 22 – November 9, 2017 at City Hall Park, Lower Manhattan.
Earth Potential expands Novitskova’s ongoing investigation into today’s media-saturated culture and continues her interest in the relationship between technology, scientific research, and the physical world. The large cut-out sculptures, six to eight feet in diameter, consist of images of the Earth and other planets sourced from the Internet that are composites of various datasets produced via satellite imaging. In several works, a second layer is then affixed, depicting enlarged other-worldly animals and organisms that are used in biotechnology and genetic research. These include, the hydra, which is considered to be the only known “immortal animal,” and is used as a source for anti-aging research, and the primitive round worm, the first species whose neural network has been digitized for scientific inquiry. Similarly, the squid is studied for its advanced emotional and mental capacities, while lizard legs are copied in various innovative engineering applications.
“From the micro to the macro, Novitskova brings to life a world that was once invisible but now, due to advances in satellite cameras and electronic microscopes, can be pictured in great detail,” says Public Art Fund Associate Curator Emma Enderby. “These images are also of living forms that are used in the scientific community to synthetically change the future of our planet. With this, Novitskova invites the viewer to reflect on the ways in which we see our world and how we perceive the potential of the Earth.”
By transforming the online image from the rectangular format of a digital screen and displaying it as a sculpture in physical space, Novitskova expands the idea of what photography and images can be today. While three-dimensional, the flatness of the works replicates the experience of viewing images online, furthering the pointed confusion between image and imagination. “Novitskova’s work responds to our current, overwhelming photo-based culture, one that is created by the rapid circulation of images, their manipulation, and the advancements in image-technology,” says Enderby. “Her sculptures not only invite audiences to consider the ways in which the seemingly dichotomous realms of the real and the virtual intersect, but how the role of photography has changed today.” Lit up dramatically at night, the space will be re-imagined as an extraterrestrial landscape, referencing Hollywood’s use of New York City as a site for Sci-Fi movies.
Novitskova is part of a growing network of artists whose primary concern is the impact of digital culture on society. In 2010, Novitskova edited and published Post Internet Survival Guide 2010. This book, which includes artworks, interviews, and writings by nearly 100 of her contemporaries, has become a central touchstone for artists, critics, and curators working in the digital landscape. Earth Potential will coincide with Novitskova’s selection to represent Estonia at the Venice Bienniale in 2017, where she will transform data visualizations into an immersive environment.
Earth Potential is curated by Emma Enderby. For more information, please visit Public Art Fund's website.