The Portland Institute for Contemporary Art (PICA) presents Roland Brener: Discoveries in Digital Design, an exhibition of recent work by Canadian sculptor and installation artist, Roland Brener. The exhibition opens Thursday, August 28th and runs through September 22th at the Gallery of Contemporary Art at Lewis & Clark College. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, from noon to 4 p.m with a suggested donation of $3. An opening night reception for the artist will be held Thursday, August 28th from 6 – 8 p.m. and the public is invited.

Roland Brener’s work is characterized by his irreverent use of technology for purposes other than that for which it was originally intended. His earlier works center around the use of everyday objects to create mechanical sculptures that perform simple tasks or mimic human behavior. More recent works involve computer technology and explore more abstract notions, such as randomness and space. Many of his works are interactive, requiring the viewer to activate or alter them in some way. Others are reflective and self-contained. All deliver Brener’s wry commentary on contemporary life and culture with wit, intelligence and grace.

The centerpiece of Discoveries in Digital Design is a large-scale, interactive installation entitled Endsville, which was commissioned by PICA for this exhibition. Endsville investigates how contemporary architecture addresses public space and community by replicating a suburban housing development. Utilizing a computer design program, Brener creates a series of individualized “trophy houses,” designed in 30 second intervals, which are then manufactured and placed along a grid on the gallery floor. The computer will also be used to drive the installation’s sound and light systems which will be affected by the viewers’ presence as they move within and around the exhibition space. Endsville furthers Brener’s exploration of technology, as the computer actually becomes the material of the installation, rather than merely an artist’s tool.

Curator’s Statement

It is with great pleasure

that PICA presents a solo

exhibition of recent work

by Victoria-based artist,

Roland Brener.

The title of the exhibition,

Discoveries in Digital Design,

is intended to reflect the

interests and explorations of the

artist,describing both his process

and the completed works in the show.

Roland Brener is considered one

of Canada’s most important contemporary

artists. He has gained an

international reputation as a prominent

sculptor and his work has

been included in numerous prestigious

venues such as the Venice

Biennale and the Power Plant, in

addition to occupying several museum

collections. Characteristic of his work

throughout the previous decade is

his provocative execution of

kinetic possibilities in sculpture. The

works in this show illustrate

the range of these investigations.

Ghost of Untitled explores

an implied kineticism by artificially

suspending non-congruent shapes. In

Ghost of Weeper he reduces

movement to its barest element,

that of a single tear.

Ghost of Teddy requires the

viewer to interact with the

sculpture by pulling a lever,

making the eyes roll and

mouth move.

In recent years his sculpture

has expanded from direct physical

kineticism to the more “virtual”

movements of light and sound.

His most current installation entitled


consists of 45 cardboard houses

which sprawl along the gallery

floor in a grid. Within

it he incorporates interactive sound

and lights controlled and randomized

by a computer. The vocal

sounds of a viewer are

picked up by microphone and

translated through a specially designed

midi-system, causing both elements

to jump from a default

setting to an instantly animated

series of aural and visual

patterns which cast light, shadow

and sound throughout the room.

Viewer interaction with art has

been a long-standing interest

of Brener’s, and often occupies

a component of his sculpture.

With Endsville he has incorporated

this into the actual making

of the piece itself. For

over a week, during nightly

“work parties” Brener provided house

designs for groups of volunteers

to translate and manufacture in

cardboard. The volunteers ranged widely

in their professional trades and

personal interests, from designers to

architects to PICA’s members

and staff. In order to

complete the installation in time,

a minimum of 5 houses

had to be completed each day.

Their efforts were documented and

daily progress was posted on

PICA’s web site, which accompanies

the exhibition. They will also

be included in the catalogue

for the show.

Equally characteristic has been his

ongoing exploration of materials,

reflecting his curiosity and knowledge

of their possibilities. His primary

interest is in making various

materials do what they seem

least capable of withstanding,

or providing unexpected juxtapositions

that result in witty, often

strange and utterly refreshing sculpture.

Relative to this show, Brener’s

primary material and tool of

trade has been the computer,

and its role in the

work cannot be underestimated.

From his extensive use of digital

imagery in his house designs,

nearly a year’s worth of

correspondence via email,

interactive web site design,

disks, zip drives, a midi sound

and light system design, to

basic word processing, it seems

that all matter of software

and hardware has been employed

in service of this show.

Most notably in his voracious

exploration of the computer, and

what it can do.

“When I was working on

the computer I would say

to it, ‘make those’ according

to certain specifications, and

then I’d say, ‘and then

make them out of something.’

Which would result in an instantaneous

transformation due to the computer.

I have just pushed a button

and it happens, which for me

has created a different consciousness

that has become part of

how I look at everything.”

Of particular intrigue is

Brener’s decision to use that

shift in consciousness as subject matter.

In doing so, he raises

questions of merit and aesthetic

meaning, as the “push button ease”

is antithetical to what

we have come to commonly

associate with art and,

perhaps more so, what we

expect from art making. He

is acutely aware of his

own irreverence, and in

keeping with the show, I

include a recent piece of

Brener’s writing that reveals

something about his art:

“My parents had emigrated and

twenty five years after first

leaving home I visited my

mother and Leo in their adopted country.

The move alleviated the bitter

antagonism that had poisoned their

lives since the death of their daughter.

But soon after my arrival many

of the old difficulties resurfaced.

Their new house overlooked a

beautiful panorama of beach and ocean.

The first day of my visit,

returning from a walk,

I stood on a needle stuck

in the carpet. It broke

in half and penetrated the

joint of a toe, lodging

into a nerve bundle. Leo

had a monopoly on pain

in his house and my

accident created an unwelcome

diversion. He was annoyed with

having to compete for the

attention that was normally his

exclusively. Hospitalised for two

operations, one on the wrong toe,

I was back in their

house on crutches and pain killers.

Being unable to venture out

to experience the spectacular environment,

I was able to examine their

home at leisure. With surprise

I realised that many of my

behavioural peculiarities and

intolerance’s had been derived

from Leo Ñ tough luck as

he wasn’t even a blood relative.

I also intuited that years of

exposure to his curious approach

to the world had probably

influenced my approach to art.

His stubborn refusal, or inability,

to adopt orthodox methods was

enough to ruin almost anything

he touched, but he also created

solutions that were unique and unexpected.

Leo survives alone and the house

is gone. I remember him

best with affection through the

few snapshots I took in their home.”

Nearly a year’s worth of

work is reflected in the show.

It has been a rare pleasure to work

with such an extraordinary artist,

as a thinker and as a maker,

Roland Brener is truly unique.

-Kristy Edmunds, Curator