Online

A Deep Dive into Digital Art

by Jillian Steinhauer on December 24, 2013

Screenshot of the homepage for The Wrong Digital Art Biennale

Screenshot of part of the homepage for The Wrong Digital Art Biennale

Some people spend Christmas Eve going to mass or sitting around a tree; others spend it eating Chinese food and going to see a movie. If you don’t have any family or friend traditions to adhere to, or if you do but want an escape, one possibility I’d recommend is to spend this late afternoon/evening digging into digital art.

More specifically, I mean The Wrong, a new online biennial that launched November 1. The Wrong, which was organized by David Quiles Guilló of the São Paulo–based amorphous creative company ROJO, is a huge, almost entirely digital biennial. It loosely follows the format of high-profile, IRL — sorry, AFK — events like the Venice Biennale by breaking up its artwork into pavilions, each curated by a different person. There are also four “media” contributions, which include a label for experimental video artists and a terrific online TV channel, Network Awesome, that features curated selections from YouTube based on a daily topic (today: Christmas Eve). And a handful of AFK events, including one, KowalniaRealityTV, taking place today in Warsaw and live-streaming online.

And don’t forget the nine special features, many of which are apps, including Glitché, which helps you distort your photos into works of digital art.” Some of the explanatory text for the apps reads like genuine advertising copy — “a new way to share life through music video, in seconds” — which disrupts the free-flowing, anti-capitalistic spirit of The Wrong (even if the apps are free). But it’s reassuring to have in the mix FFFFFartsy, which comes from “artsy-fartsy” and allows you to “show your online work respectfully in a real gallery room” by framing images, videos, and web pages on the screen and placing them in front of a digital gallery bench: nifty and wonderfully useless.

FFFFFartsy! (screenshot via thewrong.org)

The beauty of FFFFFartsy (screenshot via thewrong.org)

Because, as I’ve written before, pretending that online is offline and attempting to show digital art the old-fashioned way doesn’t do the art any favors. And The Wrong succeeds in imposing some kind of structure while also avoiding this problem (which makes FFFFFartsy an even better joke). The homepage for the biennial links first to an in-site page for each pavilion or feature or what-have-you, where explanations and artists’ and curators’ names are given — the wall text, if you will. From there, you click out to the pavilions themselves.

Those are many — 30 in total, with more than 300 artists participating. Some are organized around specific media, like Sara Ludy’s Chambers pavilion, which invited 11 artists to create online “sound rooms”; some sprang from a set of instructions, as with Curt Cloninger’s Wonder Cabinet of the Big Electric Cat (“First watch a video, and then make whatever you like”); others have themes, like Chiara Passa’s And one day, boom: the pavilion of exploded reality!, which focuses on impossible architecture; still others have no explanation but titles that suggest grand ambitions — i.e. Anthony Antonellis’s Young Internet Based Artists, an obvious play on the Young British Artists (YBAs) designation that sprang up in the early ’90s; and one, Julia Borges Araña and Guilherme Brandão’s Homeostasis Lab, is an open pavilion to which anyone can contribute for the duration of the biennial.

There’s far more artwork on view in The Wrong than I’ve yet been able to take in (this post is meant as an introduction, not a comprehensive review). What I have seen runs the gamut from GIFs to videos to multimedia pages filled with graphics, drawings, and more. The aesthetics range from glitchy to web collage (Cloaque is a special feature) to 3D-animated. Some of my favorites thus far include, in the Young Internet Based Artists pavilion, Jan Robert Leegte’s eerie “Random Selection in Proximity,” which finds your location on Google StreetView and then highlights a rectangle of space nearby; the sparkling and spinning “objects” in Rollin Leonard’s Shadow Box pavilion, as well as its clever “click” buttons; Peter Burr’s “Fills,” which looks like a black-and-white acid trip and sounds like robotic bugs, in the Plan 9 Channel 12 pavilion; and, in the Western Digital pavilion, Amy Alexander’s hypnotic and strobe-like “Googling Californians (Half Truths for People on the Go).”

Screenshot of Peter Burr’s “Fills" (via plan9channel12.com)

Screenshot of Peter Burr’s “Fills” (via plan9channel12.com)

Much of the art I’ve seen so far has been engaging but also relatively expected, in that it falls into prescribed digital art categories. But the breadth of The Wrong alone is impressive — it’s got to be one of the first major efforts to corral and organize this kind of cross-section of artists working in digital media today. And because it’s online, and free, you can go back as many times as you want! There’s undoubtedly much more to discover. Happily, the biennial was supposed to close in a week but now looks as though it’s been extended, through January (at least according to Facebook). You or I may yet find something that blows us away.

The Wrong continues online through January 30, 2014.

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  • relancer

    A lot of this is really cool an all, but most of the net art here doesn’t seem to go beyond addressing itself as a medium. Or is it that net art is so in its infancy that it can’t do much else?

    • Jillian Steinhauer

      I’m definitely not an expert, but a lot of the net art I’ve seen has been very…I guess inward-facing might be the correct term. Or, if it does offer commentary, it’s often on the broader online culture that it comes from. I tend to give it the benefit of the doubt and say it’s still quite new, but I do sometimes wonder if this is at least in part a medium-specific thing.

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