Ambitious Sci-Fi Art Shows Come to FAT Village Artwalk

When alternative arts collective Bedlam Lorenz Assembly (BLA) curates a show, viewers are in for a hip, well-thought-out, immersive experience that's bold and, oftentimes, absurd.

The latest and perhaps most ambitious endeavor to date is Saturday's opening of "Attempts at Autonomy." The group exhibition, curated by newcomer Jesse Firestone and BLA cofounder Zack Spechler, concerns the science-fiction realm of hybrid machines assembled with bio-organism parts, functioning together in — as the show's title suggests — an effort to live and sustain lives of their own.

The idea, according to Spechler, came about when he viewed Italy- and L.A.-based artist Mattia Casalegno's installation What It Takes to Be a Body, which was informed by the book Variations on the Body, by French author Michel Serres.

Casalegno's digital installation questions man's and machines' assumed roles as superior in society and the natural world. He looks at the internal functioning mechanisms of the body. His site-specific work consists of television sets suspended in air, webbed in Japanese bondage netting. He clads the TVs with photographic renderings of his own human skin, creating a raw and visceral reaction for viewers to the machines themselves.

"The show is looking at the distinction of organisms and machines."

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The group show, featuring seven artists in addition to Casalegno — Ron Erlih, Noelle Fitzsimmons, Katerina Friderici, Jessie Laino, Michael Powell, Laurencia Strauss, and Joe Winograd — is framed around Casalegno's work and is set up to transcend the themes from Serres' philosophical book.

"In the show, the artists are talking about the same things Mattia is talking about, but it's this crescendo perfect hybrid," Spechler says. "So, for example, Noelle Fitzsimmons has a digital plant that reacts to the surrounding sounds in the gallery; it moves to the sound and creates and grows based on it what it hears.

"And Jessie Laino has a bicycle that can be ridden by the participants and is powered by a light source that will power a sculptural nursery garden containing medicinal herbs, which the viewers can digest and use, creating the highest level of interactivity."

Spechler met curator Jesse Firestone at last year's Art Basel Miami Beach, where Firestone worked as assistant creative director on the Basel satellite show Hide Tide. The two quickly launched into discussion on curating together.

Firestone brought in artists he knew to add to Spechler's existing curatorial narrative. One is Miami-based artist Strauss, whose work Ambient Glow is set to fill the gallery's concrete floor's cracks and dips throughout the 8,000-square-foot space. Strauss has concocted a silicon substance, consisting of bioluminescence bacteria and a synthetic chemical. "The mixture will create a light source that charges itself, creating this perpetual system that's enclosed and will serve as a guide at the show," explains Firestone.

All of the works are subtly self-lit, reinforcing the idea of autonomy and creating an ethereal mood.

"The show is looking at the distinction of organisms and machines and ways that can be clouded and broken down," continues Firestone.

Powell's piece, an industrial vacuum he has tinkered with and crafted into a representation of a human lung, looks at how bodies can tune into one another. "When you walk in and see his piece, you're confronted with the sound and rhythm of human breathing," says Firestone. "Viewers will, unconsciously, breathe to the same rate."

Accompanying "Attempts at Autonomy," artist and Palm Beach State College professor of photography Samantha Salzinger is debuting works in her first Fort Lauderdale solo show, "Terraforming."

The collection features video and landscape photographs of her meticulously handmade dioramas of fictional places and mysterious findings. At first glance, her photographs seem to capture realistic but fantastical universes. She has printed them on vinyl and mounted them directly on the wall, portraying portals to another world.

This new work is a continuation of what she's shown before, but it incorporates more architectural structures and footprints of beings.

"I don't want to give it away," she says. "The work is meant to be very open, and I like people to figure out for themselves 'What is that thing? Is that a human being or an alien?' And I don't know the answers either; they're all made up. They're not real. The more real I can make the photo look, the more the viewer can get involved with the fantasy. It's like watching a movie: You believe it might be a place somewhere in the universe, but it's not."

"Attempts at Autonomy" and "Terraforming"
On exhibit starting 6 to 10 p.m. Saturday, January 30, through February 27 at the Projects Contemporary Art Space and Box Gallery, 520 NW First Ave., Fort Lauderdale, as part of the monthly FAT Village Artwalk. Free entry. Visit

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Andrea Richard