The Artist in a Cyber-World: Mohr Gallery, Finn Center

by David Santen

Pantea, Karimi’s Unlinked, watercolor and silkscreen, 2010

The latest series of works from Pantea Karimi, recently featured at the Mohr Gallery in Finn Center in Mountain View, are a passionate exploration of high technology’s effects on human experience.  In this series of mixed-media prints called Mediated Senses, Ms. Karimi expresses her wonderment and excitement with high technology but also portrays some of technology’s dangerous illusions and traps. In creations that are subtle, balanced, highly original, and quite lovely, she portrays themes that range from circumspection and fascination to a concern for the negative effects of technology on contemporary humanity. Importantly, she focuses on the viewpoint of the individual rather than more nebulous and sinister notions, such as the Surveillance State that is enabled by high technology.

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” wrote Henry David Thoreau. From that 19th-century remark until now, the fundamental human conditions of isolation, dissatisfaction, loneliness, and the hunger for meaning—or even simple-minded escapes from these feelings—have persisted. (Those who doubt such an assertion need only ask: If this were not so, why are an enormous number of solutions being aggressively marketed?) Even after the Free Speech Movement, Sexual Revolution, and the Hippie Move­ment of 1960s America, followed by the Anti-war Movement and the Feminist Movement of the 1970s and into the post modern era, people are still searching for ways to make life meaningful and to bridge the gap between self and others.

Auditory Datum, 2010, at the Mohr Gallery, Finn Center

These needs have created a sizeable market in which high-technology has staked some very seductive claims. The providers of social communication and entertainment technologies make a provocative show of enhancing humanity’s experience of con­nectedness, enrichment, and convenience.  Amidst the considerable charms of high technology, a question remains: how well do gadget-driven socialization, entertainment, and societal functionality actually create meaning and also connect humans in a fulfilling way—especially for the younger generation, which is growing up in a high-tech world?

One of the pioneers of the modern technologies behind virtual reality, Jaron Lanier, recently came out against the low-grade and corrupting forms of high technology as well as over-reliance on technology in his book, “You are not a Gadget,” in which he says, “Something started to go wrong with the digital revolution around the turn of the twenty-first century. The World Wide Web was flooded with petty designs sometime called web 2.0. This [Web 2.0] ideology promotes radical freedom on the surface of the web, but that freedom, ironically, is more for machines than people. . . . as a whole, this widespread practice of fragmentary, impersonal communication has demeaned interpersonal interaction.”

Kinesthetic Adventures by Pantea Karimi, silkscreen and watercolor on paper

Mediated Senses shows the individual in different conditions as a silhouette of different sizes, sometimes a tiny person in a large world dominated by science and technology (as, for example in Unlinked), or dancing or striking fanciful poses in a futuristic landscape (as in Kinesthetic Adventures), or isolated in a bewildering vortex (as in Auditory Datum), or in various stages of loss and disintegration, as in Cyberland. In Cyberland, the isolation and disintegration of the individual in a haze digitized stimuli are aided and abetted by the very technologies that are supposed to work miracles of human connectedness.

With her spare yet balanced mindscapes that feature judicious use of scientific-looking symbols of technology rather than overt gadgetry, Ms. Karimi passionately communicates her thoughts while show­ing no need to lampoon the gaudier side of technology marketing.

Ms. Karimi uses various shades of rose, blues, charcoals, and earth tones, all of which seem to be entirely her own invention, as opposed to invoking the commercial. The impact is subtly powerful and succeeds through spareness rather than domineering and too-obvious symbolism. With these features, her works are very engaging in that they invite and reward contemplation, and at the same time they are visually delightful even when the theme is gloomy.

Pantea Karimi is a very original and genuine artist whose future exhibitions are not to be missed.

See more of Karimi’s series at http//www.redcanvas.net/

David Santen is a technical writer in Northern California and unabashed fan of Pantea Karimi’s work.

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