Julia Christensen, What Remains (Estate Sale 1), 2014

Julia Christensen, What Remains (Estate Sale 1), 2014, from the series Hard Copy (2014), photo courtesy of the artist

Coming Soon—“Julia Christensen: Upgrade Available”

March 12, 2020

Please note: This opening has been postponed in support of the effort to contain the spread of COVID-19; updated dates and virtual programming for the exhibition soon to be announced.

ArtCenter Exhibitions and LACMA’s Art + Technology Lab present Julia Christensen: Upgrade Available at the Peter and Merle Mullin Gallery at ArtCenter College of Design, on view April 3 through August 23, 2020.

For nearly a decade, artist Julia Christensen has studied how “upgrade culture”—the perceived notion that we need to constantly upgrade our electronics to remain relevant—impacts institutional archives and operations, long-term scientific research, and our personal lives. The exhibition follows the trajectory of Christensen’s ongoing endeavors at the intersection of art and technology, from an e-waste processing plant in India to her meetings with scientists at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to discuss concepts that transcend obsolescence. Featuring nearly 50 artworks from multiple bodies of work, Upgrade Available also includes works recently completed in dialogue with LACMA’s Art + Technology Lab and JPL’s Innovation Foundry.

During her fellowship at the LACMA Art + Technology Lab (2017), Christensen developed two series of photographs exploring how technological obsolescence impacts institutional operations. Archived Obsolescence and Smart Buildings display how institutions struggle to keep step with upgrade culture by documenting the range of media stored in institutional archives and the multiple generations of obsolete technology physically embedded in LACMA’s buildings. In a dialogue initiated through this same fellowship, Christensen met with a group of scientists at JPL to envision two long-term space mission concepts that transcend technological obsolescence. Christensen’s exhibition will feature the first public showing of her initial photographs, drawings and digital sketches related to these mission concepts.

Using one such concept, The Tree of Life, Christensen envisions a communication system designed to outlive typical technology using unlikely components: a set of living trees on planet Earth in communication with a small satellite (CubeSat) designed to operate for 200 years. Datasets describing the tree’s health and the CubeSat’s operations would be transmitted between Earth and outer space as sonic frequencies, effectively causing the tree and spacecraft to “sing” in a 200-year duet. A model will be on view as part of the Upgrade Available exhibition, where visitors will be able to listen to the live “song” of the tree. The sonic technology for The Tree of Life was developed during Christensen’s residency at the Fulcrum Arts AxS Incubator.

In conjunction with the exhibition, LACMA will organize a series of workshops for public middle school students at Young Oak Kim Academy (YOKA) that explore parallels between scientific methods and artistic processes, by introducing Christensen’s artwork. The program will also bring students on a field trip to the exhibition at ArtCenter College of Design, and will result in an art show of student work generated in response to the Upgrade Available exhibition.

Julia Christensen: Upgrade Available is accompanied by a forthcoming book, also titled Upgrade Available, published in April 2020 by Dancing Foxes. The book features Christensen’s writing interspersed with her artworks, and conversations between the artist and fellow artists Ravi Agarwal and Cory Arcangel; Lori Emerson, associate professor in the Department of English and the Intermedia Arts, Writing, and Performance Program at the University of Colorado at Boulder; Jessica Gambling, archivist at LACMA; Rick Prelinger, archivist and professor at UC Santa Cruz; Bobbye Tigerman, curator at LACMA; and linguist Laura Welcher, director of operations at The Long Now Foundation.

The exhibition is curated by Stephen Nowlin, director of Exhibitions at ArtCenter College of Design, with assistance by Julie Joyce, curator of Exhibitions. Julia Christensen: Upgrade Available will be on view at the Peter and Merle Mullin Gallery at ArtCenter College of Design, from April 3 through August 23, 2020.

The Art + Technology Lab is presented by

Hyundai logo
The Art + Technology Lab is made possible by Accenture and Snap Inc.

Additional support is provided by SpaceX and Google.

The Lab is part of The Hyundai Project: Art + Technology at LACMA, a joint initiative exploring the convergence of art and technology.

Seed funding for the development of the Art + Technology Lab was provided by the Los Angeles County Quality and Productivity Commission through the Productivity Investment Fund and LACMA Trustee David Bohnett.