St. Louis Art Museum's new exhibits focus on art and technology | St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis Art Museum's new exhibits focus on art and technology

Nov 13, 2017

The St. Louis Art Museum opens three different shows this month that use technology as a jumping point to explore politics or history.

Among the exhibits is one by world-renowned German photographer Thomas Struth, whose photographs include of wires, robot parts, and industrial machines. For him, researchers and scientists have managed to bring humanity together even while political crisis after political crisis unfolds.

“So I said to myself, let me open the door and look at this entanglement and passion and tunnel vision in which people work in science and technology,” Struth said.

Struth’s photos document the inside of super colliders, the bottoms of space shuttles, and sites of world-changing research. His exhibit “Nature and Politics” is one of three shows on technology that open this month at the Art Museum.

For curator Eric Lutz each show offers a different lens through which to view the relationship between art and the scientific process.

“The way that an artist is looking for a certain sense of order and beauty in the world, and a scientist is doing the same thing just with different tools,“ said Lutz.

While Struth’s photographs imagine a cooperative present and future, exhibits by Matt Saunders and Ben Thorp Brown look at technology’s past.

Brown’s film transports viewers to a shoe lathe factory in Germany where ancient craft and modern technology coexist. Viewers will see foot molds used to build shoes that are constructed by hand and produced by 3-D printers.

“He really is trying to force the viewer to confront how technology has changed over time, which I think is different than Thomas’ that’s very much, about how technology is working at the moment and almost looking to how it could be in the future,” said Hannah Klemm, who curated both exhibits.

By viewing these works together, Klemm said, people can see connective threads between the artists, technological history, and art history.

“Especially in an encyclopedic museum where you can go visit these other galleries and look at the history of art, is how much these contemporary artists still are utilizing the history of art in their works that look to the future and move art forward,” she said.  

That’s where all three artists meet. They ask that viewers consider how technology affects our vision of the world around us and what it means going forward.

Struth’s final image captures that idea. It’s a photo of the Atlanta Aquarium in which a bunch of kids look out into blue water speckled with fish.

“By ending with a seascape, I think he’s indicating that we’re all here on this blue planet and we’re all in it together and is hopeful that things will be better in the future,” Lutz said.

Struth’s project keeps looking toward that future. While in St. Louis, he shot photos at a Washington University lab and the Danforth Plant Science Center as a way of documenting cutting edge technology here.

His exhibit is open and will show through Jan. 21. Shows by Matt Saunders and Ben Thorp Brown open this weekend.

If you go: 

What: “Nature and Politics” – Thomas Struth, “Currents 114: Matt Saunders” – Matt Saunders, “New Media Series” – Ben Thorp Brown.

Where: St. Louis Art Museum

When: “Nature and Politics” until Jan. 21. “Currents 114: Matt Saunders” until Feb. 4. “New Media Series” through April 15.

Follow Willis on Twitter: @WillisRArnold