Alexander Reben’s Engineering Psychology at Charlie James Gallery is an invitation to play. A variety of low and high tech devices operates with the sole purpose of turning viewers into active participants. These works are no games, however, as no rules or objectives apparently exist. No one wins or loses; the goal is simply to experience.
It is fascinating to see how inconsequential and frivolous amusement brings about a great deal of pleasure. The least technological piece on display, which comprises of 205 antique brass finished spring door stops mounted on five square white panels, orchestrates loud cacophony of fast vacillating noises when the metal protrusions are flung in mass. The discordance is outright unpleasant yet devilishly delightful.
Equally rudimentary is the other musical instrument made with a ceramic plate and a stainless steel fork. The pedal at the bottom slowly and precariously spins the white plate. The upside down fork remains stationery, its points narrowly catching and scraping the plate’s enamel surface. The resulting high pitch sound is at once cringing and satisfying.
A single installation sits downstairs — a cylindrical column with 96 motion sensors, each encased in a cardboard enclosure and paired with a light box made with the same material. The lights turn on and off as a viewer trips the sensors. The light show is downright elementary but its immersive effect is highly addicting.
These works take utilitarian objects and render them perfectly useless. The forms no longer follow their intended function. The slightest degree of harmless subversion accentuates the exhibition with uncomplicated humor and unassuming irony. Even the rules of engagement are turned on their head. For a typical commercial art gallery visit, one must never touch. In Engineering Psychology, absolutely nothing happens without the physical interaction.
Alexander Reben’s Engineering Psychology is on view at Charlie James Gallery until August 29, 2015. It’s a GO-HAVE-FUN.
All images courtesy of gallery unless otherwise noted.