Maquinas & Almas, Digital Arts and New Mediums at the Reina Sofia

Contemporary art really gets a bad rap sometimes. A canvas painted solid blue or an collage of abstract shapes might catch the eye of some, but it simply can’t be understood by everyone. Maquinas & Almas, Arte Digital Y Nuevos Medios (Machines & Souls, Digital Art and New Mediums) is a new temporary art exhibition at Madrid’s Museum of Contemporary Art, the Reina Sofia. This exhibition probably features contemporary art that is as universally-accepted as contemporary art will ever get.

Right now, simple electronic objects garner the attention of practically all human beings on the planet. Maquinas & Almas combines technology and art in an amazing, creative, and participatory way that engages even the largest of contemporary art skeptics.

Unfortunately, half of the exhibition closed on September 15th. Luckily, the remaining part of the exhibition was strong enough to stand alone on its own.

For starters are some relatively well-known pieces by Sachiko Kodama, which utilize toxic magnetic fluids and electrical pulses to create moving black structures.


Sachiko Kodama

One installation that held my attention for about an hour was Ben Rubin and Mark Hansen‘s Listening Post installation. The two hung small LCDs in a 11 tall and 21 wide rectangular shape, and filled the LCDs with various text tidbits datamined (remember in The Dark Knight?) from thousands of online chatroom conversations. Sequenced and timed alongside sound effects and digitalized voices, the installation was broken up into various arrangements of audio and visual harmony.

Once the arrangements had cycled through their program, the viewer would then find that even though the upcoming texts repeated the same patterns, they didn’t necessarily have the same datamined words. Only a person who stayed at the installation for hours would legitimately know how many iterations it really has.

While there are other pieces in the exhibit that were notable, Daniel Rozin‘s Trash Mirror stood out the most. The piece is assembled like a mosaic, with individual pieces of recycled trash placed side by side to create a nice neat rectangle. An overhead light illuminates all of the pieces, and when no objects are nearby, all of the trash is clearly visible. When someone stands in front of the trash mirror, however, motion sensors then reflect the “mirrored” pieces downwards, removing them from the direct overhead light. The result is a pulsing, twitching shadow that mirrors the form and actions of the individual standing before it.

Again, enough talking about the piece, though… go to http://www.smoothware.com/danny/newtrashmirror.html to see the Trash Mirror in all its moving glory!!

Written by
Vee Hua 華婷婷

Vee Hua 華婷婷 (they/she) is a writer, filmmaker, and organizer with semi-nomadic tendencies. Much of their work unifies their metaphysical interests with their belief that art can positively transform the self and society. They are the Editor-in-Chief of REDEFINE, Interim Managing Editor of South Seattle Emerald, and Co-Chair of the Seattle Arts Commission. They also previously served as the Executive Director of the interdisciplinary community hub, Northwest Film Forum, where they played a key role in making the space more welcoming and accessible for diverse audiences.

In 2017, Vee released the narrative short film, Searching Skies — which touches on Syrian refugee resettlement in the United States — and co-organized The Seventh Art Stand, a national film and civil rights discussion series against Islamophobia. 2022 sees the release of their next short film, Reckless Spirits, which is a metaphysical, multi-lingual POC buddy comedy for a bleak new era, in anticipation of a feature film.

Vee is passionate about cultural space, the environment, and finding ways to covertly and overtly disrupt oppressive structures. They also regularly share observational human stories through their storytelling newsletter, RAMBLIN’ WITH VEE!, and are pursuing a Master’s in Tribal Resource and Environmental Stewardship under the Native American Studies Department at the University of Minnesota.

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