For the last six months, SUNY Cortland’s Dowd Gallery has been cocooned from public view while, back in her studio in Queens, N.Y., Beth Livensperger worked to design a transformative art installation designed specifically for that space.
Recently, during a five-day residency in Cortland, she and Dowd Gallery Assistant Scott Oldfield and Gallery Director Jaroslava Prihodova carefully installed the finished artworks.
On Monday, Aug. 29, Livensperger’s “Runaway” exhibition opens to the public, kicking off Cortland’s fall semester with a visual exploration of how the fast pace of technological change has affected people’s lives.
An opening reception featuring the artist from Queens, N.Y., will take place from 4 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, August 31, at the gallery, located in the Dowd Fine Arts Center at the corner of Prospect Terrace and Graham Avenue. It is the first of a supporting program of in-person and virtual events in Dowd Gallery.
The exhibition runs through Friday, Oct. 14. It is free and open to the public, as is the opening reception and exhibition-related events. All gallery COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted. However, visitors are advised to continue taking precautions to maintain a healthy environment for all.
The exhibition features works that run the gamut from traditional watercolor to cut silhouettes of faux ostrich skin vinyl.
“The installation at Dowd Gallery illustrates how the accelerating pace of technological change impacts social interactions, economics and personal behaviors,” said Livensperger, an assistant professor at CUNY College of Staten Island’s Department of Performing and Creative Arts.
“Large-scale collages and cutouts directly applied to the gallery walls point to these impacts, including our winner-take-all economy, disadvantaged ZIP codes and corrosive disinformation exacerbated by digital interventions.”
“From Uber to WeWork and Airbnb, new app-based employers warp traditional labor conditions, making it ever harder for workers to build autonomy and reliable working conditions.”
Livensperger earned art degrees from The Cooper Union and Yale University. Her previous projects have explored ideas related to feedback loops between humans and institutions such as courts, museums and schools.
She started creating “Runaway” in Dowd Gallery in March, and it has been the longest gestation period of any exhibition she has ever worked on.
“My ideas and formal strategies evolved during and due to the making process,” she said. “Because the installation is a web of interconnected pieces, some of which function as one and some of which stand alone, I was able to more or less fluidly respond to revisions in my thought.”
“Runaway” additionally highlights surveillance technologies and their contribution to class inequality and environmental politics. Livensperger noted that surveillance runs the gamut from facial recognition to online tracking and data extraction.
According to her, while not denying the numerous positive impacts of current technology, this project highlights rising collective anxiety over its attendant downsides. This body of work reflects the difficulties and possibilities inherent in our relationship to structures of power.
“The past two years have taught us that our interconnectivity and on-demand production also increase systemic fragility,” Livensperger said.
In addition to the feature exhibition, the Dowd Gallery will present a supporting program including an artist’s talk, documentary screenings, a workshop and lectures that place the artwork in a wider perspective. All programs are open to students and the public free of charge.
Events related to the exhibition are scheduled to take place in person at Dowd Gallery unless noted otherwise:
Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday or by appointment.
“Runaway” is partially funded by the Pollock-Krasner Foundation and the Provost’s Research Fellowship at the College of Staten Island, CUNY. SUNY Cortland support includes the Art and Art History Department, Art Exhibition Association, Cortland Auxiliary Services grant, Campus Artist and Lecture Series, Communication and Media Studies Department, Cultural and Intellectual Climate Committee, School of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Office, Economics Department, Institutional Equity and Inclusion Office, Haines Fund, President’s Office, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs’ Office, Student Government Association.
Visit the Dowd Gallery website for details about exhibiting artists, other programs, safety protocols and online booking. For more information or to inquire about an appointment, tour or additional images, contact Jaroslava Prihodova, Dowd Gallery director, at 607-753-4216.