Known for his kinetic sculptures, Jon Kessler exhibited widely in the 1980s before taking a hiatus to teach at Columbia. He came roaring back, though, in a 2004 solo show at Deitch Projects, which introduced interactive video into his politically charged works.
Combining makeshift mechanics and mobile technology, Kessler’s latest installation, The Web, was inspired by his observations of people on the subway absorbed by their smartphones and tablets. He employs some of those same devices here to visualize our obsession with e-mail and the Internet, and warn us of our digital dependency.
Like Alice’s looking glass, The Web takes viewers through enlarged MacBooks, where they encounter a screen-filled environment occupied by three old men in hammocks. Each of these geezers—animatronic clones of the artist himself—fingers an iPad or glances at a MacBook while masturbating to images uploaded by viewers via an available app.
The show’s high point is upstairs, where a Unabomber-style shack doubles as Foxconn, Apple’s suicide-plagued manufacturer in China. Inside, another mechanical tableau features a rock band of skeletons, who repeatedly play Apple’s trademark start-up chord: a signal for both an orgiastic beginning and an ultimately unhappy end.—Paul Laster