In the proverbial battle between man and machine, you might say that Andrew Kleindolph is on the machines’ side. Many of the artist’s interactive electronic sculptures play games with their human counterparts, instead of the other way around. Spark follows Kleindolph from his workshop at the Headlands Center for the Arts to his show at San Francisco’s RX Gallery as he demonstrates his interactive artwork.
One recent Kleindolph creation resembles a video game like any other. The catch? The game never starts. Instead, Kleindolph’s machine sends its users through an endless series of pointless prompts and error screens. At a Kleindolph show, players’ increasing frustration with an obstinate video game, onlookers’ confusion over which switches illuminate which light bulbs and baffled stares at a contraption emitting manipulated audio tracks of wild animal calls are as much a part of the art as the machines themselves.
The tension between humans and machines is an overarching theme in both Kleindolph’s three-dimensional electronic pieces and his two-dimensional digital images. The latter looks like a cross between blueprints for the innards of fantastic machines and a busy intergalactic highway frequented by space-age cellular creatures. The images juxtapose electronic circuitry and organic forms in a way that’s both playfully cartoon-like and technically precise.
Machines have been a part of Kleindolph’s life since childhood. His family owned a vacuum cleaner and sewing machine sales and repair shop in his small hometown of Muscatine, Iowa. His grandfather started the business, and his parents, uncle and cousins worked there. Kleindolph also worked there for a time.
When he begins working on a new piece, Kleindolph doesn’t just do what he already knows how to do. Instead, each sculpture is a learning process in and of itself. An idea, like the one for an “anger meter” that lights up in the presence of body heat, will often send Kleindolph to his studio in the basement of the Headlands Center for the Arts, where he has had space for several years.
As he tinkers with new devices and works on projects sure to baffle and surprise visitors at his next show, Kleindolph is turning the senseless vagaries of life into art. “A lot of the stuff that I’ve been doing looks at everyday situations and how absurd they are. The sort of things that we do everyday can be [absurd]. Yet we just tolerate this and that and just go onward with our business.”
Andrew Kleindolph earned a B.F.A. in painting from the University of Iowa and an M.F.A. in electronic arts from Mills College. While attending Mills, he began teaching at City College of San Francisco. He still works at City College part time, but focuses on his electronics classes at Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco.