UCI News

Mechanical sculpture

Artist transforms electrical detritus into imaginary, evolving organisms in current Beall Center exhibit.

by E. Lesly Martin, Claire Trevor School of The Arts | April 14, 2009
Mechanical sculpture
The spare design of the Beall Center for Art & Technology provides the perfect backdrop for the colorful sculptures in Shih Chieh Huang’s EX-I-09 exhibit. Claire Trevor School of the Arts

New-media artist Shih Chieh Huang, whose EX-I-09 recently opened at the Beall Center for Art & Technology, loved rebuilding remote-controlled cars in elementary school. He’d take them apart and put them back together again, just not in the exact same way.

Today, he creates interactive installations, merging common materials and electronics with air and water in eerily beautiful, organic environments and sculptures.  EX-I-09 explores the unusual evolutionary adaptation of creatures in inhospitable conditions.

“I create ecosystems similar to what might be found in nature and populate them with ‘living’ things made from everyday objects,” the 33-year-old artist explains.  “I dissect and disassemble ordinary objects – household appliances, zip ties, water tubes, lights, computer parts, motorized toys – and reconstruct them into experimental, primitive organisms that reside on the fringes of evolutionary transformation.”

Take a closer look and you’ll find computer cooling fans repurposed for locomotion; a 24-ounce measuring cup providing a skeletal framework; and automatic night lights used for sensory input.  The black-box gallery of the Beall Center for Art & Technology at the Claire Trevor School of the Arts is the backdrop for the colorful, mechanized sculptures.

Huang’s intent is to show that things may be more than what they first appear to be. “I hope viewers will see the possibilities in ordinary things,” he says. “A trash bag is not just a trash bag; an empty water bottle is so much more than that.”

The Taiwan-born Brooklyn resident is open to people’s interpretation of his art:  “Each person sees things differently, depending on their background and experience. Those who have studied biology will see things one way; those who are into electronics focus on those aspects of the work.”

EX-I-09 will run through June 6.  The Beall Center is open to the public, and admission is free.  Hours are noon-5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and noon-8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday.