Daniel Leyva’s Digital Hellscape Is Heavenly

Daniel Leyva gets biblical with 3-D printing and iPads.

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Daniel Leyva, Chapel (2014).
Photo: Courtesy the artist and INTERSTATE.
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Daniel Leyva, Chapel (2014).
Photo: Courtesy the artist and INTERSTATE.
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Daniel Leyva installation view.
Photo: Courtesy the artist and INTERSTATE.
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Daniel Leyva, Icarus (2014).
Photo: Courtesy the artist and INTERSTATE.
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Detail of Daniel Leyva, Icarus (2014).
Photo: Courtesy the artist and INTERSTATE.
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Detail of Daniel Leyva, Icarus (2014).
Photo: Courtesy the artist and INTERSTATE.
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Daniel Leyva, Virus.DOS.Lichen. (2014).
Photo: Courtesy the artist and INTERSTATE.
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Daniel Leyva, Rice Circle (Lifehack) (2014).
Photo: Courtesy the artist and INTERSTATE.
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Daniel Leyva, Plow (2014).
Photo: Courtesy the artist and INTERSTATE.
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Detail of Daniel Leyva, Rice Circle (Lifehack) (2014).
Photo: Courtesy the artist and INTERSTATE.

Technology will save us all. I’ve entertained that thought earnestly (if fleetingly), as I imagine most of us have at some point. Cell phones and the Internet have transformed the ways we communicate; digital imaging has given us the medical technology to extend lives by decades; gene mapping promises to extend lives even further.

Advancements like those inform Daniel Leyva’s “Blood Tastes Like Iron,” an exhibition that turns Interstate Projects into a temple for technology. On the ground level there are rice mandalas and a tiny, 3D printed plow. Meanwhile, the gallery’s basement has been turned into a church of sorts, complete with three projection screens. Leyva doesn’t appear to be looking for converts so much as he is using religion and technology to tell us about who we are and where we’re headed. The result is a complete transformation of the gallery’s two levels into techno-heaven and techno-hell.

The upstairs level, appropriately, is heaven. On a pedestal, surrounded by two concentric circles of rice, a revolving stand showcases a spartan, white, 3D printed plow. I took this to mean that in spite of our digital tools’ advances, they may still be very rudimentary. Will we soon be able to print food? Was the rice printed too? (I asked, it was not.) The rice circles are organized into eight modules, and inside four of the rice mounds are screens playing stock footage like flowers and people using computer screens. It’s a utopian, cheeseball vision of heaven that’s not particularly exciting, but at least it’s free of strife.

Descend into the basement and you’ve reached hell (or, at the very least, purgatory). The space is dark and filled with softly-lit, roughly six-foot-high plexiglass tubes held in place at their bases by plaster casts of hands. Six screens in the shape of church windows, three on two adjacent walls, create a cult-like atmosphere. You’re surrounded by projections of octopi and underwater plant life, a snake eating itself, and red cursive text that scrolls across the screen too quickly to read, among other images.

It’s a bleak picture—we are self-destructive, and maybe evil by nature—but there is hope. In the middle of the space, an ostrich egg on a pedestal is placed in front of a projection screen filled with an image of angel wings. The wings flap, as if conducting the orchestra of images that flows behind them; a text by singer-songwriter Cass McComb about a serpent scrolls by in large, Gothic type; smoke, running bison, and computer windows fly across the wall. Could these wings take us out of this place?

Some questions linger, like whether or not we really want to escape from technology. Visitors can choose their fate by toggling between buttons on the headphones in the gallery: one track plays club music, the other cues medieval mandolin followed by electronica. Whichever soundtrack you chose, it’s a party you won’t want to leave.

Daniel Leyva’s “Blood Tastes Like Iron” continues at Interstate Projects through October 12.


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