Francesca Talenti re-imagines life's origins | Visual Art | Indy Week
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Francesca Talenti re-imagines life's origins 

Ghost in the machine

Genesis: Mishaps in the Kitchen
DesignBox
Through July 29

click to enlarge "Microwave" (2007), one of the installations in Genesis: Mishaps in the Kitchen - PHOTO COURTESY OF DESIGNBOX
  • Photo courtesy of DesignBox
  • "Microwave" (2007), one of the installations in Genesis: Mishaps in the Kitchen

Walking into Francesca Talenti's exhibit Genesis: Mishaps in the Kitchen is like walking into a warped fusion of science and technology with your average kitchen, complete with refrigerator, stovetop, microwave, dishwasher and, yes, kitchen sink installations. Using actual-size appliances, small-scale sculpture elements and video and audio presentation, Talenti's alternative kitchen asks big questions.

Following the exhibit's tagline—"What if God had to cook up a new world?"—each piece suggests how kitchen appliances are used in the creation of living things in a technological age. Furthermore, the use of the kitchen motif is profound in that our associations with the kitchen lie with food, the substance that sustains us. By reworking the ideas of kitchenware, Talenti pushes the viewer to consider what's being created, and for whom.

One piece, entitled "Brainwash," looks like a dishwasher. However, with its door open and the racks pulled out all the way, the pure, white cavity within is lit with a clean, bright light, offering up a sort of science fiction-style rebirth for the contents of the racks. On the bottom shelf are old books, ranging from Companion to the Cosmos to Homer's Iliad and the Holy Bible; the top shelf contains an assortment of computer parts and circuit boards, with wires that connect to the pages of the books below. On top of the dishwasher sits an IBM Thinkpad, opened to the Google search page.

In this work, we see how Talenti takes away everything we know about the dishwasher except its general function, reworking it to serve instead as a cleansing and filtering site for information. As suggested by the title, the piece leaves us with the question: What happens to all the dirt that's washed away?

In some form, each installation intersects life with machine. Here, Talenti points to the idea of how scientific development has led us to create technology, which, in turn, is now having a hand in our own creation. For example, her piece "Pantry Ghost" exists only because of the scientific research into the human body. Cross-section images of the human body, viewed from above, are projected onto the seat of a white, wooden chair. The looped projection scans up and down along the body, moving from the brain to the organs of the torso and down to the muscles and bones of the legs. The projection is, in a sense, creating the body that we see.

However, Talenti even switches this dynamic, so that the body we see is in fact our own. In "Beholder," she attaches a camera to a bust replica of Michelangelo's "David." To view the work, you must stand so that your own image is projected onto the bust's face, enabling you to see yourself under the stony gaze of David. Accompanying the tableau is an audio track of Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful," a testament to unconditional beauty in the individual.

Talenti's work reconstructs the traditional kitchen so it is no longer merely the site of food production. With Genesis, Talenti offers us a new recipe for the creation of life in a scientific era.

Francesca Talenti's Genesis: Mishaps in the Kitchen can be viewed by appointment at DesignBox, 323 W. Martin St., Raleigh. Call 834-3552 or visit www.designbox.us for more information.

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