Data Zone, Cultures Table #3 2003

Detail image of Michal Rovner's video installation, Data Zone, Cultures Table #3, 2003
Michal Rovner, Data Zone, Cultures Table #3, 2003; Gift of Heather and Tony Podesta Collection, Washington, DC; © 2016 Michal Rovner / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

The petri dishes in Michal Rovner’s Data Zone, Cultures Table #3 initially appear to contain pulsating bacteria or DNA. A closer look reveals that the swarming dark specks are masses of tiny, silhouetted people seen in bird’s-eye view. The images are projected in an endless loop onto the petri dishes using miniscule video monitors. Rovner created this captivating work by recording groups of people from above and transforming them through a heavy editing process that obscures any previously detectable natural arrangement.

Arrayed on a metal table, Rovner’s petri dishes simulate the feeling of a laboratory that juxtaposes science, art, statistics, and the human condition. Though the motif of abstracted, ambiguous human figures appears frequently throughout her oeuvre, Rovner leaves traces of individual movement, inviting viewers to engage deeply. The resulting experience is at once detached and mysterious, yet intensely human.

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