Extra//Almost Human:

Announcing Spring 2020 at ECoCA

Molly Gambardella. Shame Shield

Molly Gambardella. Shame Shield


As part of our mission to foment contemporary creative collisions, we are planning two interconnected spring shows challenging questions of modernity, technology, ritual, and human agency. What power does an individual hold in a society? How can human agency form and disrupt societal collectives? How do rituals and traditions gain new meanings against contemporary environments? These two upcoming exhibitions face these questions. 

 The first, Extra Human, will be on the theme of witches, witchcraft, witch-hunts, and all the socio-political connections these entail. Extra Human is a platform for artists to respond to a multitude of creative, intellectual, and political themes, including, but not limited to, the demonization of powerful women, and the contemporary resurgence of magic as a tool to combat oppressive structures. Through multiple time periods, including our own, there has been a correlation between the rise of self-identified witches and fascism. Can magic, then, be understood as a different type of power, a way to combat political power that threatens many of our communities? This show will fill our annual In Grace We Trust slot, an exhibition during Women’s History Month that pays tribute to Grace Taylor Ely, whose home and fortune created the basis for the Ely Center itself. This celebration of Grace as a forward-thinking philanthropist allows us to explore the feminist interpretations inherent in the witch theme.  How do women respond to oppression and persecution through the supernatural? What types of gendered double standards exist when we think about power? How are powerful women deemed witches in the cultural imagination, and for what reasons are witches both revered and reviled? What does it mean to believe in ritual, even at the expense of reason? What is the interaction between the witch and nature, particularly in the arenas of herbology and potions? How does what is “human” interact with the supernatural to create a bodily experience that is not-quite-either? 

This last question illuminates the connection between Extra Human, our March show, and Almost Human, our May exhibition. Almost Human will take these questions of human agency, the body, and nature and apply them to the technological field of robotics. Almost Human will examine the increasingly nebulous lines between human and machine, and the interplay between human and “artificial” intelligence. Artists are encouraged to create work that is inspired by or in response to the mechanization of modern life. Robots have become integral to many aspects of contemporary human life. From the Siris in our pockets and Alexas in our homes, to advanced robotics in medical technology, on to the ethical coding systems of self-driving cars, how are robots redefining what it means to be intelligent? How are they working both in tandem with and in spite of the human body? As we aim to create an exhibition in which thinkers and makers from different disciplines can jointly question these themes from our contemporary world, we are hoping to partner with one or more robotics companies in order to build a foundation for synergy between visual artists and engineers.