Art Installation Highlights Important Cultural Themes


Courtesy of Selina Bartlett

Two attendees gaze at installation artist Eli Sudbrack’s work. The Allen Memorial Art Museum premiered its exhibition of Sudbrack’s art last Friday.

Bri DiMonda

On Friday, Feb. 20, the Allen Memorial Art Museum and Oberlin’s Department of Art celebrated their first collaboration with the Richard D. Baron ’64 Art Gallery when they opened a new immersive art gallery installation featuring art by Brazilian-born installation artist Eli Sudbrack, also known as assume vivid astro focus. The installation avaf@AMAM, which the Gallery will house through May 1, samples a medley of artistic media created by both Sudbrack and Paris-based artist Christophe Hamaide-Pierson.

Sudbrack and Hamaide-Pierson are both known for creating multimedia installations that engage with “sexual, geographic, macroeconomic, social and political issues” according to an article in the New York Times titled “Subversive, but Colorfully So.” These two artists often take inspiration from various pop culture sources, but also from their geographic backgrounds. Sudbrack has collaborated with artists of all kinds, including Lady Gaga and Comme des Garçons, and plays with music and lighting to create a multi-sensory experience for viewers.

In an interview, Denise Birkhofer, Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the AMAM and of the installation, described Sudbrack’s work as “psychedelic” and “campy.” Though he is known for collaborating with many other artists, Birkhofer describes Sudbrack, who is based in New York and São Paulo, as the “brain” behind the mastery.

Most of the art on display was already in the museum’s collection, but some was loaned to the college especially for avaf@ AMAM. “The art itself [is] digital files that you can have recreated for any purpose.” Birkhofer said. “Everything you see in there is an individual element that can be recombined to make an infinite number of installations. We have the file for the wallpaper that belongs to us on a CD, so basically then we scale it to fit the space that we want to have covered in the wallpaper. Then we have it printed in Florida.” Birkhofer said she wanted the installation opening to be interactive for viewers; the exhibition included music and lights, which were important to avaf ’s presentation. To fulfill this goal, Birkhofer hired College thirdyear Alisa Yamasaki to DJ the event.

Despite added flair, Birkhofer’s arrangement of the installation resembles previous Sudbrack exhibitions.“Part of the inspiration for the way that I chose to do the installation was based on what they did at the 2004 Whitney Biennial,” Birkhofer said. “In that installation, a couple of our sculptures were used, as well as one of the films. … In the Whitney installation there were pink and green strobe lights, so it was kind of an overstimulation of the senses. … I tried to make it look like this club aesthetic.” Birkhofer also emphasized the innovation Sudbrack’s work brings to Oberlin’s campus. “Everything about the exhibition is a bit new and a bit of an experiment, so what we wanted to do in terms of the opening was to have a party,” she said. Birkhofer often hosts similar opening parties at the museum. Given its spectacular elements, the installation itself is a bit of a party and certainly one that Oberlin students should consider ditching the ’Sco to attend.