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Installation view of Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art at Albright-Knox Northland. Photo: Brenda Bieger for Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, New York.

Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art

Saturday, October 16, 2021
Sunday, January 16, 2022

Albright-Knox Northland
Please review our Courtesy Code and
 reserve your visit date and time prior to your arrival.

Oppression is systemic—that is, built into the fabric of our society. Even our technologies are not neutral: as many scholars and activists have shown, they are shaped by the biases and agendas of their creators. New digital tools (including facial recognition systems, search algorithms, and databases) created by corporations and governments reflect prejudices based on our collective identities. These tools are then used in ways that contribute to existing inequalities. For example, biased programs may discriminate against disabled people in job interviewssuggest harsher sentences for Hispanic defendants, and deny medical care to Black patients. The earliest computers were called “difference engines,” as they were used to calculate the differences between numbers. Today, computers are machines used to encode the differences between us.

In response to ongoing conversations about systemic inequities, Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art brings together a diverse group of seventeen artists and collectives who creatively reimagine the digital tools that shape our lives. The exhibition includes projects that span the last three decades, ranging from software-based and internet art to animated videos, bioart experiments, digital games, and 3-D printed sculptures.

Installation view of Saya Woolfalk’s Landscape of Anticipation 2.0, 2021, in the special exhibition Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art at Albright-Knox Northland. Photo: Brenda Bieger.

Installation view of Rian Ciela Hammond’s Root Picker, 2021, in the special exhibition Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art at Albright-Knox Northland. Photo: Brenda Bieger.

Installation view of Danielle Brathwaite-Shirley’s WE ARE HERE BECAUSE OF THOSE THAT ARE NOT, 2020, in the special exhibition Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art at Albright-Knox Northland. Photo: Brenda Bieger.

Installation view of A.M. Darke’s 'Ye or Nay?, 2020, in the special exhibition Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art at Albright-Knox Northland. Photo: Brenda Bieger.

Installation view of Sondra Perry’s IT'S IN THE GAME '18 or Mirror Gag for Projection and Two Universal Shot Trainers with Nasal Cavity and Pelvis, 2018, in the special exhibition Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art at Albright-Knox Northland. Photo: Brenda Bieger.

Installation view of works by Morehshin Allahyari in the special exhibition Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art at Albright-Knox Northland. Photo: Brenda Bieger.

Installation view of Joiri Minaya’s #dominicanwomengooglesearch, 2016, in the special exhibition Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art at Albright-Knox Northland. Photo: Brenda Bieger.

Installation view of Hasan Elahi’s Thousand Little Brothers, 2014, in the special exhibition Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art at Albright-Knox Northland. Photo: Brenda Bieger.

Installation view of Lior Zalmanson’s Excess Ability, 2014, in the special exhibition Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art at Albright-Knox Northland. Photo: Brenda Bieger.

Installation view of Zach Blas’s Facial Weaponization Suite, 2012–14, in the special exhibition Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art at Albright-Knox Northland. Photo: Brenda Bieger.

Together, these works explore the aesthetic and social potential of emerging technologies. Some emphasize how digital tools can be repurposed to tell more inclusive stories or imagine new ways of being. Others show how becoming visible within digital systems can be a trap that leads to the technological exclusion, surveillance, and exploitation of marginalized communities. Dynamic and interactive, these projects transform the space of the museum into a laboratory for reflecting on and experimenting with our increasingly powerful “difference machines,” in the hopes of achieving a more equitable future.

This exhibition is organized by University at Buffalo Professor Paul Vanouse and Albright-Knox Assistant Curator Tina Rivers Ryan.

ASL interpretation for people who are Deaf or hard of hearing is available upon request. To schedule an ASL interpreter for a virtual event, please contact Access & Community Programs Coordinator Karen Duval at 716.270.8249 or kduval@albrightknox.org at least two weeks in advance.

Admission to Albright-Knox Northland is always Pay What You Wish.

Exhibition Sponsors

Difference Machines: Technology and Identity in Contemporary Art is made possible through the generosity of Aleron Group, Mr. Charles E. Balbach, and Mr. and Mrs. Charles W. Banta.

Equipment and technical support provided by Advantage Technology Integration.

The Albright-Knox’s exhibition program is generously supported by The Seymour H. Knox Foundation, Inc.

Albright-Knox Northland Sponsor

Albright-Knox Northland is supported by M&T Bank.

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