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Atlas:

Shoplifters of the World

Unite and Takeover

Atlas: Shoplifters of the World Unite and Takeover 

Allan Espiritu and Hyun Seo

Rutgers Camden Center for the Arts,

Rutgers University–Camden, 2013

Printer: 16" x 8.5" 

Atlas or Shoplifters of the World Unite and Take Over, was an interactive exhibition inspired by painter Gehard Richter’s image-collection project Atlas. Richter’s project is an evolving, growing collection of newspaper clippings, sketches, and photographs that reflect the artist’s life and work. For this project, Espiritu collaborates with programmer Hyun Seo to modify Richter’s amalgamative approach. The collection served as a guide (a proverbial atlas) for subsequent GDLOFT work, providing inspiration for conceptual underpinnings. 

Espiritu and Seo positioned variously-sized screens on a wall. During the exhibition participants uploaded images (of their work or of any image that inspired them) to the display screens through a web portal. The portal “mashed up” and combined submitted images randomly—creating new and unexpected compositions, while a dot matrix printer printed them. As the images appeared momentary, printed, then changed, the project became a commentary about the transitory nature of meaning in electronic media and in art; inspiration and insignificance.

The work challenges the notions of aura, ephemerality, and value that Walter Benjamin ascribes to reproduced art in his seminal essay “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” While the project celebrates the ways that people’s lives and work inspire meaning, conversely it also reflects how the transience nature of electronic media can generate and inspire nonsense, worthlessness and emptiness of information/images in “the age of electronic media.”