A giant security X-ray scan, now on display at SUNY Cortland’s Dowd Gallery, gives viewers a peek into a small van that manages to accommodate 14 passengers: two in front, four in back and eight desperate illegal immigrants crammed into a hidden compartment in the roof.
The artistically modified scan is one of many arresting images created by Blazo Kovacevic through digital modification of X-ray security scans as part of “Incited,” an art installation that explores the plight of illegal immigration in an era of heightened security.
Kovacevic’s large-scale, multimedia installation — which opened at the gallery in the Dowd Fine Arts Center on Oct. 23 — was created using X-ray images taken by European border patrol authorities trying to stem the flow of people trying to escape violence or pursue opportunity. The display reveals unsettling vignettes of vehicles carrying hidden illegal immigrants as their cargo.
It builds on a theme of de-humanization created by new, invasive security measures that Kovacevic, an assistant professor of art and design at Binghamton University and art director of the Binghamton University Art Museum, has explored in previous scan-based creations.
Incited, which runs through Friday, Dec. 8, focuses on the intractable problems of human trafficking, smuggling and terrorism that dominate social and political discussions throughout the world.
All Dowd Gallery events are free and open to the public.
Born in Podgorica, capital of the Eastern European country of Montenegro, Kovacevic earned a B.F.A. in painting from the University of Montenegro and an M.F.A. in painting from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He has received numerous awards and recognitions and has shown his solo work as well as pieces that were included with group exhibitions in Europe and the United States.
Kovacevic’s artwork raises questions around issues associated with human trafficking, where people become little more than a commodity exploited for profit. It echoes the depersonalization that he feels post-9-11 security measures have imposed.
“The concept of a disregard for individual life addresses the notion of the end of privacy exemplified by security inspections, body scans and X-rays of personal possessions in both everyday life and times of unrest,” Kovacevic said.
Upon entering the main gallery, the installation confronts the viewer with a digitally altered, life size X-ray of a delivery vehicle filled with figures symbolizing illegal passengers. The work focuses on the human body as an obscure form, devalued into an abstraction that is rapidly losing value in today’s world. It’s a view the artist gets through the lens of technology.
Kovacevic’s installation provides a visual platform characterized by a use of cutting-edge technologies. The often brightly-colored digital images contrast with the raw reality of social conflict and upheaval.
On Tuesday, Dec. 5, visitors can experience a hi-tech virtual reality simulation of a traumatic experience in the life of anonymous immigrants being smuggled in a vehicle.
“The Virtual Reality 360 Experience allows the viewer to experience a few moments in the life of an illegal immigrant traveling without air, room to move, food or water together with 53 other immigrants in a small van,” Kovacevic explained.
“This simulation or reenactment, together with other works exhibited, is based on actual media reports,” he said. “The van accidentally crashes, resulting in one fatality and many injuries.”
Additional events are planned, including:
- An opening reception will be held from 4 to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 25 in Dowd Gallery.
- An artist’s talk with Kovacevic will take place from 5 to 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 7, in Dowd Gallery.
- Kovacevic will lead a workshop from 4 to 6 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 16, in the Dowd Fine Arts Center.
To register for the workshop or for more information, contact Interim Gallery Co-Director Jaroslava Prihodova, or call 607-753-4216. To arrange a group tour, contact Prihodova or Interim Gallery Co-Director Bryan Thomas.
Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and by appointment. The gallery is closed on weekends.
The Dowd Gallery is located at the corner of Graham Avenue and Prospect Terrace in Cortland, N.Y. For more information about the gallery, visit the web site cortland.edu/dowd-gallery.