Inspired by TED: Three astonishing art shows in Long Beach


Across from the Long Beach Arena complex where TED2009 just finished up, a more local — but no less ambitious — cluster of art shows inspired by TED are running through March 14. Phantom Galleries LA, a project that helps artists mount gallery shows in empty storefronts, presents three shows and performances in Long Beach around TED: “Emergence Enchanted”; “Super Elastic”; and “Bluetooth’s Castle.”

At the intersection of art and science, communication and dreamscape, “Emergence Enchanted” collects the work of 20 artists — painters, sculptors, animators, videographers — who explore the edges of science and creativity in fresh ways. Daniel Marlos from What’s That Bug contributes two glorious images of arachnids … Lita Albuquerque shows a powerful video projection called BeeKeeper that harnesses new pixel-handling techniques to explode and coalesce a life-size image … and an eerily wonderful video work from Semiconductor imagines the life of magnetic fields (see a still above). I interviewed co-curator Stephanie Allespach via email.

What was your brief to the participating artists in this show?

Krista Chael and I started to think about the numerous artists we knew who were working with new technologies in their art, as well as artists who were engaging with scientific thought and theories. These artists’ practices are as diverse as the speakers at TED. Some work within political activism (Fallen Fruit), while others take a more sci-fi approach (Micol Hebron and Nora Jean Petersen). Then we have artist like Lita Albuquerque who work in collaboration with software engineers/biologist, as well as drawing attention to the plight of bees in BeeKeeper. We wanted to create a dialog from the various approaches and hoped that something larger than the sum of its parts could emerge.

So we called the artists about the show and everyone responded with an overwhelming YES! They are all big fans of TED and wanted to participate.

How many gallery spaces are involved?

We have two main gallery spaces, a performance space, and we have a fourth exterior rotunda space which will exhibit a site-specific installation. We also have six separate windows at another location within the mall, displaying photographs of Anne Harsclover/Financial Times pots. So that would be five locations within the mall. We kind of took it over.


Two more TED-inspired shows run concurrently through March 14 in Long Beach. “Super Elastic” brings together large-scale works from four Southern California artists who question how we see — and how art helps us visualize the unseen forces of physics. As curator Timothy Nolan writes: “Although each artist is very literate in the history of pattern-based abstraction, conceptually and aesthetically, they are inspired by and draw liberally from an infinite pool of scientific inquiry.” And the installation piece “Bluetooth’s Castle,” from the Long Beach media collective FLOOD, celebrates the deep connection between innovation and mystery through sound.

You can see images from the shows here — including clips from opening-night performances by Cloud Eye Control, Anna Oxygen and Miwa Matreyek. And learn more about about Phantom Galleries LA — you might remember them from their work with James Nachtwey’s TED Prize wish.