'Crisis' makes its point only weakly Art vs. information age: Four artists' works attempt to show what the barrage of information delivered by new technology has on art.

November 30, 1995|By John Dorsey | John Dorsey,SUN ART CRITIC

With the ever-expanding capacity for computers to store information, there's more and more information available to us, and as a result we have less and less control of it. That's the theme behind Towson State's uneven show "Crisis of Memory."

It's curated by Karen Sullivan, an artist who also teaches at Hood College in Frederick. "As information delivery accelerates, the fragmentation of information intensifies," writes Sullivan. "It is becoming increasingly difficult to determine information accuracy, history and reality. The digital age is affecting our memories, myths, and definition of community, art and interaction."

The trouble with that statement is that it's a fairly large jump from talking about fragmentation of information to saying that art, memories and community are being affected. No doubt they are, but this show addresses the issues in a scattershot way that leaves no coherent body of ideas in its wake. We are left with works by four artists that range from interesting to nearly pointless.

The best of them is Sullivan's own "Pre-Programming I." It shows us a baby lying on its back in a playpen, staring straight up at the screen of a television set hanging from the ceiling. The TV plays a tape that shows a mix of images over and over, such as a snippet from Martin Luther King's "I have a dream" speech and a commercial for Tums. Around the TV hang such products of the electronic age as a CD, a TV remote and various tapes, while in a nearby corner sits an empty rocking chair -- symbolic of the absent parent letting the TV be baby sitter.

The idea of a child subjected to constant electronic bombardment is pretty horrifying, and yet we know that it happens, increasingly. Sullivan's work packs a punch that nothing else here can match.

Terry Gips' elaborate and surprisingly optimistic installation, "Mnemosyne's Dream," tries hard to engage the viewer meaningfully but falls somewhat flat. It involves three spaces: The first, enclosed by banks of back-lighted computer boards, leads to two others where we are shown scenes of nature.

The point is that if we use technology properly it can enhance our lives and even our appreciation of nature. And the point comes across, but the work leaves a bland impression. One sort of wanders around in it and eventually emerges, virtually unmoved.

It is, however, more rewarding than the works of the other two artists here, Tyrone Georgiou and Patricia Galvis-Assmus, whose photographic images have much less to communicate than they want to.

This is a subject worth addressing, but if it is to be dealt with in a significant way it needs a better-thought-out approach than it gets here.

Art and overload

What: "Crisis of Memory"

Where: Holtzman Gallery, Fine Arts Building, Towson State University, Osler and Cross Campus drives

When: Noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, through Dec. 9

$ Call: (410) 830-ARTS

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