From Sep. 20 to Dec. 16, 2019, alumna Maria Antelman ’11 has a solo photography exhibit at the Visual Arts Center located at the University of Texas in Austin. Antelman is an artist based in New York. She studied Art History at the Complutense University in Madrid and holds an MFA from Columbia University. The exhibit, Mechanisms of Affection, shows photography of machines trying to interpret humans. Antelman’s photography here draws inspiration from the aesthetics of early IBM advertising, which marketed machines and women as objects of desire. IBM, which created its first Personal Computer (PC) in 1981, used images of women standing near PCs to make the machines seem less threatening and more approachable. According to the Visual Art Center’s website, “Mechanisms of Affection examines the cultural impulse to anthropomorphize technology, automate sensation, simulate connection, and impersonate vision.”
In an interview with the show’s curator, Taylor Bradley, Antelman said she found some old computer magazines and IBM catalogues. “Women were operating and caring for the emotionless gray electronic equipment with their female touch and soft hands. In a history of the representation of women in information technology, these are the women who evolved into Siri and Alexa’s compliant personalities.”
In the same interview, Antelman remarks on her education at Columbia University. “We met with mentors, had regular critiques, and did critical studies. I took extra classes in architecture and sculpture (a sucker for art history), drawing, photography and more. [...] I am still showing the work that I did during graduate school and before graduate school. I entered the program as an artist with a fully developed practice. I worked closely with the artists Jon Kessler and John Miller, and with Gregory Amenoff, Liam Gillick, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Kara Walker, Fia Backstrom, Janine Antoni, Liz Deschenes, and Shelly Silver.”
The show was curated by Taylor Bradley, a PhD Candidate in Art History and 2018-19 Visual Arts Center Curatorial Fellow.