Q&A: Artist Kendra Fleischman on ‘The Little Chapel of Our Holy Motherboard’

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The Madonna and Cyber Savior sit at the alter of the digital chapel. Courtesy Kendra and Heather Fleischman

Where would we be without our beloved technology? That’s the question posed by Kendra and Heather Fleischman’s mixed-media installation, “The Little Chapel of Our Holy Motherboard”—on view now at Denver Theatre Districts’s Understudy (March 3–30). Presented in association with Denver Digerati, the mother-daughter duo has put together a technology chapel where guests can sit and look through prayer books filled with QR codes, watch stories unfold in digitally composed stained glass images including “The Adoration of the MacBook” and worship at the altar where the Madonna and Cyber Savior sit. We spoke with (mom) Kendra Fleischman about the inspiration behind the installation and her aspirations for the piece.   

Tell me about your background as an artist.
“My background is in sculpture; I started out a long time ago carving stone and then moved into doing large bronze pieces. I’ve always had an interest in animation and digital so when I felt like I could understand the technology and start to actually combine sculpture with digital I started to work with some video pieces.”

What inspired “The Little Chapel of Our Holy Motherboard”?
“It started out as experimenting with some still footage I had shot of flowers and fall leaves; I was taking it and breaking it into kaleidoscopes so I had these moving kaleidoscope pieces. As I was sitting there watching them, I realized they looked a lot like moving stained glass, so I went into Photoshop and drew in what would be the black lead pieces in an actual stained-glass window. Once I did that, I started thinking about what should go in the middle. In Renaissance and medieval stained glass, there are always stories and different depictions of biblical stories, so I worked with that. The first one I did was ‘Our Blessed Lady of the Sacred Selfie.’ I wanted to make it a kind of tongue-in-cheek, satirical look at how we are worshipping technology. It started out with that one piece and it evolved into eight screens plus one really large screen sitting behind a sculpture.” 

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QR codes in the prayer books link to inspirational messages on the internet. Courtesy Kendra and Heather Fleischman

What is it like being able to work with your daughter on this project?
“She has been helping me a lot. She created the QR code bibles; if people come down and sit on the benches they can scan the QR codes with their cell phones, which takes them to different websites that have to do with the little parables inside the prayer books. This is the first big installation I have done, and Heather helped me out quite a bit with getting the actual pieces here—she helps me put them together. She’s my go-to person for anything I need that involves heavy lifting. It definitely was a mother-daughter collaboration as far as setting it up and putting it together. She also helps me out with some of the technical things. If I’m doing an animation and she sees that I could do it an easier way she’ll let me know.”

 Why do you think Understudy is a good venue for your installation?
“This is the first time I’ve had the installation put together with something that’s projected on the ceiling and the Understudy has this great angled ceiling so it works really well to put that projection up there. It really does feel like a little technology chapel.”

Where do you think we would be without our beloved technology?
“You know, that is a really good question. I think that in a lot of ways technology has improved our lives but we’ve also lost some things. It is one of those questions that has no answer. Technology has allowed me to do this piece, I needed technology to put it together, to make the animations move, to make all of these things come together. Technology also affects our lives in so many important ways that are good—but in a lot of ways we’ve gone too far. We need to put our phones down and actually have conversations face to face.”

What do you hope audiences will get out of this piece?
“I’m hoping they see the humor in it. It’s definitely poking fun at and making a little bit of a serious commentary on our over-dependence and sometimes obsession with technology, to the extent that we ignore things that are actually important.”

Anything guests should know before attending?
“They definitely need to sit down and watch the animations for a while. Some of them are repetitive shorts and others have a little story to them, so they should watch for a while, at least a minute. And then the prayer books—if they have a cell phone and can download a QR code app it will make the prayer books even more exciting to look through.”

 

 

 

 

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