by Austin Bunn

Ringmaster, Audart's Audrey Regan Inside John Toth's "In a a Circle"

You wouldn’t know it from the six foot dragon serving wine off a wireless laptop, but the "Art & Technology Circus", run by art gallery and Internet Service company Audart/Audcom is actually the integration of a fine art exhibition and a cutting edge internet technology trade show. For the two month exhibition opening Thursday night (Oct. 16th, 1997) AUDART has constructed a 12 ring circus in the bowels of 60 Broad Street, rooms strung up with performance tents and rigged with Net workstations.

The spectacle is the teaser, but the Circus hopes to push product as much as the artistic envelope.

We’re trying to create a land of Oz to have people say, "Let’s have another vodka shot and buy some technology," says Audart Director, Audrey Regan.

Not surprisingly, one of Audart’s previous successes was another variation on the theme of art and profit - this February’s "Ten Years After: The Warhol Factory." exhibit that drew a record crowd of 5000 to their 60 Broad Street location. It was the largest art event ever for the Lower Manhattan Wall Street area. Besting Warhol and Koons before them, Audart recognizes that art, commerce, and now technology make easy and profitable bedfellows. Any digital effects studio could probably say the same but at the Circus the collaboration of art and technology is truly evident.

At the Circus, it’s a peculiar blend of hucksterism and haute couture. With brand labels on all the equipment,  the 50 artists in the show have effectively been transformed into barkers, for DEC, Apple, Silicon Graphics, WinStar, TCG, FORE Systems, OKI Network Technologies, ADC Kentrox and Steinberg N.A.    That’s partly pragmatic: because while there are paintings, sculpture, photography, mixed media and installation art in the show, technology is a strong profit engine for the show.

The hardware itself will be difficult to avoid. Nineteen networked surveillance cameras and monitors are dispersed throughout the gallery, running a random sampling of images from other rooms. For John Toth’s installation "In a Circle," dancers move about inside a web of fabric, while live video of another troupe in Buffalo, is video-conferenced and projected on the scrims. Visitors are also invited to play in the show’s control room, which allows them to test drive the technology.

For the opening night, Audart is taking some of the revelry outside. The show debuts in the abandoned Dresdner Bank, but Audart has secured permission from Mayor Giuliani to close down Broad Street and lure visitors with a sidewalk dominatrix in a mermaid costume laying across a 4.5 meter satellite dish cracking her whip, saying "get inside."

Much of the work in the exhibition, however, is distinctly low-fi. Timothy Young’s puppet show featuring "Granath," the laptop promoting dragon, will run daily, with a program for school kids (no vodka shots though). A hallway of Mandala like paintings by Liz Whitney Quisgard, stretches the length of the gallery, and a monitor inside the vault plays a Humane Society video on ivory poaching for objects d’art. "It’s rather difficult to watch." says Regan. "We’re trying to collect 5000 signatures for them." That is, if anyone can break from the Circus to simply watch TV.