NETWORKED ENCOUNTERS OFFLINE
Presented by Lewben Art Foundation
Curated by Francesca Ferrarini
While approaching the theme of the Kaunas Biennial and the words of Nicolas Bourriaud on his exhibition, I thought immediately of a conversation between painters (the most opposed to digitalisation) and artists who use technology and the internet in their work. And then I thought about the third party in these encounters: all of us. Today, thanks to digitalisation and the web, we are bombarded by images everywhere we go; and all these images are flat two-dimensional images, which we see mostly on computers. We are surrounded by a real world that is influenced by edited images of itself. It does not matter if we have never been to the Caribbean: we know what it looks like. It does not matter if we have never seen Boetti’s map in reality: we can count the stitches on Google Art Project. To sum it all up, we could say that digitalisation (and the easy possibility of editing images), and the web (which has made diffusion possible), have changed our relations with the image, and inevitably our relations with aesthetics and art: we consume images.
There are two main questions: first, has art been affected by the consumption of images?
The exposition of the Lewben Art Foundation is about the encounter by a generation of artists who have been investigating the new aesthetics of the image, playing with materials, appearances and figures. The internet and digitalisation have influenced not only the way we all approach figures, but also the way artists do, on one hand, with the most classic forms of art, such as painting and sculpture, and on the other hand, using the latest technologies. They make us think about our approach to art in general; we use more pictures of art than art itself, we are addicted to Instagram, and we are digitalised collectors as well. With part of the digitalisation progress, we can easily access, use, manipulate, save and edit information and data in general. It is useful, and it makes it possible to open up the frontiers of the art world; however, as ‘image consumers’, we risk dying of the surfeit.
The second question is: what will be next, after the ‘data era’?
It is impossible nowadays to separate digitalisation (converting data) from the internet (data diffusion). There are some labels, such as Net Art or post internet art, that try to identify artists working on the relationship between data and real life. Evolution is so fast and complex that these labels are really too modest to include and describe what is going on. I have no answer to this question; however, there is food for thought in investigating what could be next, and this is an essay written in 2013 by Hito Steyerl, entitled ‘Too Much World: Is the Internet Dead?’1
The most interesting question examined by the artist is: ‘What will happen to the internet after it stops being a possibility?’ Hito Steyerl states that the internet is not dead, but that it has started to move offline. “Data, sound and images surpass the boundaries of data channels, and manifest themselves materially. But they are reshuffled: they miss their target, misunderstand their purpose, and get the shape and colours wrong. All these actions are made offline by users, and beyond killing the idea of pure sharing without manipulating, we all see that the internet feels awkward too. It is obviously completely surveyed, monopolised, and sanitised by common sense, copyright, control and conformism.” So, basically, what happens is that the internet approach to things moves into real life. “The internet persists offline as a mode of life, surveillance, production and organisation, a form of complete voyeurism, coupled with maximum non-transparency.” Let’s say the internet has started to be an environment, and it also exists offline. A key reflection Steyerl makes is that we cannot understand our world without understanding forms of moving and still images: whatever we look at every day is the result of post-production, where everything is edited, and possibly in real time. Ready for free circulation.
Artists: Ian Cheng, Gabriele De Santis, Nick Darmstaedter, Mohamed Namou, Deimantas Narkevičius, Simon Denny.
Venue: M. Žilinskas Art Gallery
Address: Nepriklausomybės sq. 12, Kaunas
Working hours: Mon-Sun 11am-5pm
The exhibition lasts until 31 Dec, 2015