Jon Chambers: Artist in Residence

The Practical Applications of Networks to the Body

March 29, 2019 – May 12, 2019

Opening Reception and Artist Talk: Friday, March 29, 2019 at 6:00 PM. Free and open to the public.

During his residency at the International Museum of Surgical Science, Chambers researched the emergence of electricity as a medical medium during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The interface of these devices, such as the Fischer Diathermy Machine, usually consisted of a wand that discharged an electric current directly on the skin. According to the book Practical Electricity in Medicine and Surgery from 1890, electricity was thought of as a fluid and this exchange between the device and the body’s charge was thought of as healing and beneficialalthough these claims were arguable and the exact nature of electricity was somewhat mysterious.

Drawing parallels to how we interface with the enigmatic electronic and technological devices and networks today, Chambers contemplates our relationships with how our body interfaces with these systems and the exchange that happens between them. Using a variety of mediums, Chambers focuses on the hand as the main point of entry into how we interact with these networks that produce labor and troves of data by clicking, tapping, moving, swiping and typing for increasingly corporate systems. Similar to the diathermy machine, we are constantly massaged and lulled by the feedback of this electrical exchange with dopamine rushes from “likes,” advertisements and play, while our relationships to these networks remain dubious as our physical and psychological bodies are in constant flux.

Jon Chambers, Diathermy, 2019.
Jon Chambers, Server Smoke, 2019.

Artist Statement: My work responds to experiences of saturation, obsessions and often humorous contradictions that emerge from our relationships with technology, virtuality and remoteness. I’m particularly interested in how we negotiate the duality of our digital and physical lives within networked systems of consumerism, identity and future histories. Endearing and uncanny feelings in the work urge us to consider the streamlined technological interfaces (both hardware and software) we encounter everyday and where those interactions start to break down. 

Image Credit: Maranda Powers

About the Artist: Jon Chambers is an artist and educator based in Chicago where he teaches media literacy, media art histories, net art, new media art (software + hardware) and video at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, University of Illinois at Chicago and Northwestern University. He has shown work nationally and internationally, in screening venues, galleries and online.

This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.