Group exhibition finds artists making new work using old tech

A student and practitioner of historical photography and videography techniques and technology, Stephen Takacs compared the zoetrope spinning animation device to the GIF, and the stereoscope image viewer to Google Cardboard and other modern 3D/VR technology.

The Takacs-curated exhibition “Phantasmagoria,” which opens with events Friday and Saturday, Dec. 14 and 15, at the Vanderelli Room in Franklinton, gathers contemporary artists who share Takacs' regard for the cutting-edge tech of yesteryear.

“I got into photography in high school, when digital was just becoming popular, but the darkroom was still very much alive. As digital became more predominant, I had a great love of analog photography, and I started to really get into various processes,” Takacs said in a recent phone interview. That interest has brought him into contact with other likeminded makers, some of whom — local artists Erek Nass and Trademark Gunderson, Chicago-based artist/educator Christopher Schneberger, Middle Tennessee State University professor Jonathan Trundle and former Ohio State University instructor and current Memphis College of Art professor Heather Wetzel — are featured, along with Takacs, in “Phantasmagoria.”

“I knew that they all had interest in these old photo and cinematic processes,” Takacs said, referencing the zoetrope and stereoscope along with other 19th-century technology, including camera obscura and slit shutter photography. “I had a loose idea to bring all of these international artists who are working with older techniques together, but what I found particularly interesting was that they are all making something new, or reinventing something.”

Takacs also said that, while there's a certain “that's cool” factor that comes with using dated technology in ways that people might be seeing for the first time, “Phantasmagoria” is not merely a didactic exercise.

“The tech inquiry pulls it together. But it's not just doing something with it, but doing something thoughtful with it,” Takacs said. “Each artist is presenting their own viewpoint, their own narrative, their own way of looking at the world.”

Takacs credited a George Bellows Grant from the Franklinton Arts District for allowing him to assemble this body of work.

“The originality of this exhibition's concept easily won over our grant selection committee,” said Adam Herman, Franklinton Arts District Board President.

“Phantasmagoria” opens during Franklinton Fridays and will also include a talk by Takacs and demonstration by Gunderson at 2 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15.