For the last six months, SUNY Cortland’s Dowd Gallery has been cocooned from public view while, back in her studio in Queens, N.Y., Beth Livensperger worked to design a transformative art installation designed specifically for that space.
Recently, during a five-day residency in Cortland, she and Dowd Gallery Assistant Scott Oldfield and Gallery Director Jaroslava Prihodova carefully installed the finished artworks.
On Monday, Aug. 29, Livensperger’s “Runaway” exhibition opened to the public, kicking off Cortland’s fall semester with a visual exploration of how the fast pace of technological change has affected people’s lives.
The gallery is located in the Dowd Fine Arts Center at the corner of Prospect Terrace and Graham Avenue in Cortland. It is free and open to the public and is supported by a long program of in-person and virtual events.
The exhibition runs through Friday, Oct. 14. All gallery COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. However, visitors are advised to continue taking precautions to maintain a healthy environment for all. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday or by appointment.
The exhibition features works that run the gamut from traditional watercolor to cut silhouettes of faux ostrich skin vinyl.
“The installation at Dowd Gallery illustrates how the accelerating pace of technological change impacts social interactions, economics and personal behaviors,” said Livensperger, an assistant professor at CUNY College of Staten Island’s Department of Performing and Creative Arts.
“Large-scale collages and cutouts directly applied to the gallery walls point to these impacts, including our winner-take-all economy, disadvantaged ZIP codes and corrosive disinformation exacerbated by digital interventions.”
“From Uber to WeWork and Airbnb, new app-based employers warp traditional labor conditions, making it ever harder for workers to build autonomy and reliable working conditions.”
Livensperger earned art degrees from The Cooper Union and Yale University. Her previous projects have explored ideas related to feedback loops between humans and institutions such as courts, museums and schools.
She started creating “Runaway” in Dowd Gallery in March, and it has been the longest gestation period of any exhibition she has ever worked on.
“My ideas and formal strategies evolved during and due to the making process,” she said. “Because the installation is a web of interconnected pieces, some of which function as one and some of which stand alone, I was able to more or less fluidly respond to revisions in my thought.”
“Runaway” additionally highlights surveillance technologies and their contribution to class inequality and environmental politics. Livensperger noted that surveillance runs the gamut from facial recognition to online tracking and data extraction.
According to her, while not denying the numerous positive impacts of current technology, this project highlights rising collective anxiety over its attendant downsides. This body of work reflects the difficulties and possibilities inherent in our relationship to structures of power.
“The past two years have taught us that our interconnectivity and on-demand production also increase systemic fragility,” Livensperger said.
In addition to the feature exhibition, the Dowd Gallery will present a supporting program including an artist’s talk, documentary screenings, a workshop and lectures that place the artwork in a wider perspective. All programs are open to students and the public free of charge.
Events related to the exhibition are scheduled to take place in person at Dowd Gallery unless noted otherwise:
- First Friday: Friday, Sept. 2. A “First Friday” guided tour of the exhibition has been organized by Cortland Arts Connect to take place from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event will be both live and virtual on Facebook, Instagram and the Dowd Gallery
- Virtual artist’s talk: Tuesday, Sept. 6, 4:30 p.m., on Webex. Livensperger will show images of her previous work and speak about her practice in an online discussion titled “Runaway.”
- Documentary screening: Thursday, Sept. 15, 5 p.m. A compilation of shorts titled “Art: Control, Capitalism, and Surveillance” will be screened.
- Interdisciplinary lecture, economics: Wednesday, Sept. 21, 5 p.m. Benjamin Wilson, SUNY Cortland associate professor and chair of the Economics Department, will discuss “#Unis4all: Stop Trying to Find the Money, It’s Time to Create It.” Wilson will place the exhibition in the context of the complicated structure of economic issues characterized distribution and access to various forms of currency.
- Artist’s workshop: Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2 p.m. Livensperger will instruct students and visitors on how to work with water-based mediums in Dowd Center’s Design Studio, Room 005.
- “In Conversation” event: Wednesday, Sept. 28, 4:30 p.m. Interdisciplinary artist Leeza Meksin, Cornell University assistant professor of art and director of the Graduate Program in Studio Art, will converse with Livensperger about “Runaway” and how their overlapping artistic interests translate into work differences. Meksin, who has created works for institutions such as The Brooklyn Academy of Music and The deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum and has been featured in The New York Times and Hyperallergic (among many others), is based in New York.
- Interdisciplinary virtual lecture, international studies: Tuesday, Oct. 4, 4:30 p.m., Webex. Karen Louise Grova Søilen, a faculty member at DIS-Study Abroad in Scandinavia, Denmark, will discuss “Atmospheres of Surveillance and Contemporary Art,” to connect Livensperger’s theme of surveillance to a global trend in the field of visual art.
- Film screening: Thursday, Oct. 6, 5 p.m. The 2022 documentary “TikTok Boom,” directed by acclaimed documentary filmmaker Shalini Kantayya, will be shown in Dowd Gallery.
- First Friday: Friday, Oct. 7. A “First Friday” guided tour of the exhibition has been organized by Cortland Arts Connect to take place from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. The event will be both live and virtual on Facebook, Instagram and the Dowd Gallery website.
- Film screening: Monday, Oct. 10, 5 p.m. Two documentary films directed by will be screened in different locations. The 2020 film by acclaimed documentary filmmaker Shalini Kantayya, “Coded Bias,” will be screened in Old Main Brown Auditorium.
- Film discussion: Tuesday, Oct. 11, 5 p.m. Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Shalini Kantayya, known for her award-winning film, “Coded Bias,” will present an interactive talk titled “Coded Bias: How Human Prejudice Creates Corrupt Technology,” in Brown Auditorium. Her work questions whether there is a truly neutral technology and asks what happens to human rights when machines govern individual liberties.
“Runaway” is partially funded by the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and the Provost’s Research Fellowship at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. SUNY Cortland support includes the Art and Art History Department, Art Exhibition Association, Cortland Auxiliary Services grant, Campus Artist and Lecture Series, Communication and Media Studies Department, Cultural and Intellectual Climate Committee, School of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office, Economics Department, Institutional Equity and Inclusion Office, Haines Fund, President’s Office, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs’ Office, Student Government Association.
Visit the Dowd Gallery website for details about exhibiting artists, other programs, safety protocols and online booking. For more information or to inquire about an appointment, tour or additional images, contact Jaroslava Prihodova, Dowd Gallery director, at 607-753-4216.