Every year, a promising artist (or two) is awarded the Umlauf Prize, and their work is displayed at the Umlauf Sculpture Garden. This year, the Umlauf is displaying not just the current prize-winning artwork, but a retrospective of several past prize-winners.
On Saturday, January 14, the sculpture garden will host an Insights artist talk with several Umlauf winners, including this year's winning artist, Elizabeth McClellan.
McClellan's work, titled EnchindaLabs, is a departure for the Umlauf -- it's not a sculptural work, but rather an immersive, interactive art piece that addresses cutting edge genetic technology, the world of advertising, and ideas of corporate identity. McClellan's created an entire fictitious corporation (Echinda Labs), its products, marketing campaigns, and corporate leaders.
It started with her fascination with CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing technology, which uses a virus to affect human DNA. "When I heard about it, I was just so curious I just wanted to start researching, and I probably spent six months just talking to scientists, reading, thinking about it, before I had any idea how this would show up as art," McClellan says.
She eventually landed on the idea of creating a fictionalized, hazily futuristic company that has developed a way to monetize similar technology. "I chose the language of advertising and the entity of a corporate being in the form of a company to explore this idea," she says. "And advertising is all about fear and fantasy."
At this point, McClellan says,"EchindaLabs exists as a full set of advertising properties -- we have a billboard... we have digital ads, we have brochures...the idea was to create an image that could really infect a space."
"The Umlauf Sculpture Garden was just a perfect environment," McClellan says. "It has this inside that I could make our trade show advertising gallery show, and then out in the gardens there is a narrative...about the other side of the company."
EchindaLabs is an immersive art experience -- there are actors in character as lab technicians, and plenty of mysteries to discover within the sculpture garden, but McClellan was careful to make the experience only as interactive as individual audience members desire. "I was interested for a long time in making an environmental piece of theater that would give the audience a lot of agency and autonomy ," she says.
Elizabeth McClellan and several past Umlauf Prize winners will be at the sculpture garden this Saturday, January 14, at 2:00 pm for a (free and open to the public) Insights artists talk. The exhibition will be on display until Januray 29.