Pulled Apart


Online exhibition and programs
Thacher Gallery, University of San Francisco

Terry Berlier, Adam Chin, Cynthia Hooper, Carrie Hott, and Gail Wight
March 1-April 25, 2021

In Pulled Apart, we experience works by artists examining the mechanisms of gadgets, scientific instruments, and computer technologies to reveal the internal and external systems that help shape society.

Clockwise, starting at top left – Details of artworks by Cynthia Hooper, Terry Berlier, Adam Chin, Carrie Hott, and Gail Wight

Each artist approaches engineering in a unique way. Terry Berlier adapts mechanical systems, microcontrollers, and software to build kinetic sculptures and installations that explore the precarity of human relationships. Using Machine Learning neural networks trained on databases of actual photographs, Adam Chin creates portraits that exist between the real and the imitation. The detailed paintings and videos by Cynthia Hooper show human infrastructure intersecting with the environment, while Carrie Hott’s videos of an evolving miniature room bring us indoors to explore how constant connectivity and hidden networks inform our decisions. Finally, through Gail Wight’s anatomical studies of mechanical toys we see the uncanny ways that nature and the human-made reflect each other.

Whether it be the use of the 16th century Cardan Gear or 21st century computer algorithms, each artist’s approach reminds viewers of the possibilities of engineering as well as our complex relationship with the systems we’ve created.


Engineering Insight

Gail Wight’s work brings to mind a child’s natural inclination to break toys apart to understand how they work and what’s inside. Indeed, it is through this sense of curiosity and wonder that children exhibit their natural engineering talents. It is through the process of breaking things apart and attempting to put them back together that the engineering mind is formed. What’s more, the toys that Gail selected to represent are incredible toys from a by-gone era when everything was made to last a lifetime. The colors are vibrant and each mechanical piece is an engineering work of art in and of itself. These toys were more than likely handcrafted by mechanical artisans and Gail’s genius has brought to light the incredible “anatomies” of these mechanical toys. What’s more, the animals that are represented are veritable engineering feats of nature. The motion by which a butterfly or a bird flies through the air with grace and ease brings the fluid mechanical concepts of lift and drag into focus. Or the way a duck frantically moves its small webbed feet under water while giving the impression of calmly gliding across the water is yet another marvel of creation. Gail’s selection of toys goes from those that represent the genius of nature to those that represent the intellect of humans, from animals to little robots. The robots that are pulled apart exhibit even more mechanical intricacy with additional pieces and further complexity, for such is the world of engineering — a world of creativity and ingenuity waiting to be explored.