Atlas or Shoplifters of the World Unite and Take Over
Fine Arts, Interaction Design, Programming
Atlas (2013) or Shoplifters of the World Unite and Take Over (2013) was an interactive exhibition inspired by painter Gehard Richter’s image-collection project Atlas. Richter’s project is an evolving, growing collection of newspaper clippings, sketches, and photographs that reflect the artist’s life and work. For this project, Espiritu and Seo modified Richter’s amalgamative approach so that the exhibition reflected its participants’ (instead of the artists’) perspectives on the world, art, self, etc. The collection served as a guide (a proverbial atlas) for subsequent GDLOFT work, providing inspiration for conceptual underpinnings.
Espiritu and Seo positioned variously-sized screens on a wall behind a traditional printer. During the week in which the exhibition occurred, participants uploaded images (either of their work or of any image that inspired them) to the display screens through a web portal. The images displayed on the screens in real time as participants submitted them, while the printer produced the images in the order of their submission.
As the images appeared momentarily, printed, and then changed, the project became commentarial about the transitory nature of meaning in electronic media in particular and in art generally. The evolving and expansive nature of the images made it impossible for a viewer to apprehend them in their entirety.
Atlas (2013) or Shoplifters of the World Unite and Take Over (2013) challenged the notions of aura, ephemerality, and value that Walter Benjamin ascribes to reproduced art in his seminal essay “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.”
Contributors ranged from internationally recognized artists to non-professional artists. Espiritu and Seo selected the project’s image contributors based on their work, writings, or personas. The work or lifestyles of those chosen have influenced the studio’s designers by impelling them to challenge traditional notions of design. Espiritu and Seo wanted to elicit the diverse perspectives that naturally arise from a group of people with a wide array of background stories: from that of Andrew Santos, a 33-year-old who quit his job to care for a terminally ill mother, to Min + Sulki, an internationally renowned, Seol-based design studio that is influencing new perspectives of graphic design in Korea.
Other participants invited to contribute to Atlas (2013) or Shoplifters of the World Unite and Take Over (2013) include but are not limited to the following:
Jonty Valentine (Aukland, NZ), a leading designer and critic in New Zealand melding fine arts and graphic design.
Ken Kim (Oakland, CA), a designer at Apple by day, who creates experimental, architecturally-inspired art work by night.
Ahree Lee (Los Angeles, CA), a video artist experimenting with timing concepts in film.
Rebbeca Gimenez (Chicago, IL), formally art director of the Whitney Museum, and part of the experimental design group We are Photoshop.
Juliette Cezzar (NYC), a designer, educator, and author whose work centers on book design.
Sang Do Kim, a poet and designer based in Korea.
Christopher Gianunzio (Philadelphia, PA), an award-winning photographer and curator whose photography integrates concepts of graphic design and pedagogy.
Kevin Kernan, a designer and silkscreen artist inspired by anime and monster culture.
Christopher Espiritu (Newark, NJ), brother of Allan Espiritu, is a graphic designer whose work is based in NYC, and whose professional track was inspired by elder brother Allan Espiritu.
Atlas (2013) or Shoplifters of the World Unite and Take Over (2013) holds in tension concepts of inspiration and insignificance. While the project celebrates the ways that people’s lives and work can inspire meaning, it also reflects how the transience of electronic art can produce a sense of meaninglessness.