A creative collaboration between Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMOCA) and Arts + Literature Laboratory (ALL) produced an exhibition of single-channel video works. “Digital Aura” is comprised of four presentations created by four artists — Sanaz Mazinani, Laura Hyunjhee Kim, Cassils and Adrián Regnier Chávez.

ALL’s co-lead curators, Simone Doing and Max Puchalsky, curated “Digital Aura” as a response to philosopher Walter Benjamin’s 1936 essay “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”

“For Benjamin, an artwork’s aura exists as both a feeling of presence and an attitude of artistic reverence — an ‘aesthetic experience’ resulting from the work of art’s unique existence,” the exhibition’s press release explained. “As such, Benjamin argued that aura is lost when the singular authenticity of an artwork can be multiplied through reproducible media. The artists in this exhibition, however, challenge Benjamin’s concept of aura. They embrace technological developments that have introduced the possibility of infinite reproduction, and thereby demonstrate the ability of digital works to evoke a sense of ritualistic awe while simultaneously engaging in dialogues of social concern.”

Unique “digital auras” are created using a combination of imagery, ambient sound, and existential themes. The four artists strive to inspire ongoing discussions on how the world perceives and assigns value in the digital age.

Mazinani’s “Threshold” delves into the truth about life inside a modern-day war zone. Visits to her home country of Iran inspired Mazinani to create her audiovisual installation. She appropriated explosion scenes from 11 Hollywood films and kaleidoscopically abstracted them to “reference traditional Islamic geometries.” With the fiery, shifting shapes and images, the video prompts a “hypnotic meditation” on the real violence of war and calls attention to ways the entertainment industry romanticizes violence.

“(Modern) Formations II” examines screen-filtered life of modern-day consumers. Kim visualizes how our society has commercialized and misappropriated indigenous practices through a “New Age” trend.

Cassils created “Inextinguishable Fire” performing a Hollywood stunt known as a full body burn. The 14-second stunt was filmed at 1,000 frames-per-second and was rendered into extreme slow motion to create a 14-minute long video.

An experimental animation work, “I” alters digital animation into visual adventures “that point to the paradox of technological progress and its potential for self-destruction.” Chávez highlights the progression of thematic sections chromatically from green to yellow, orange, and red, possibly in reference to Homeland Security’s color-coded threat levels.

Through July 29, Mazinani’s “Threshold” is on view in Lab II at ALL, 2021 Winnebago St. The other three presentations will be featured on solo rotations in the Imprint Gallery at MMOCA, 227 State St. Kim’s “(Modern) Formations II” is being screened through June 16; Cassils’ “Inextinguishable Fire” will be shown June 17 to July 14; and Chávez’s “I” runs the last part of the exhibition July 15 to Aug. 6.

— Robyn Norton


Robyn Norton is a features assistant for the Wisconsin State Journal.