Transfer Gallery in Brooklyn (All photos by author)

Transfer Gallery in Brooklyn (All photos by author)

Internet art thrives in its native medium — over the past few years, there have been a significant number of online-only galleries, including Bubblebyte, Fach&Asendorf, and Klaus Gallery, that focused exclusively on showing the work of digital artists online. Physical spaces that make the necessary effort to turn internet art into compelling physical installations have been slower in coming. Thankfully, Brooklyn’s new Transfer Gallery is here to help solve that problem.

"doodle.jpg" by Alexandra Gorczynski

“doodle.jpg” by Alexandra Gorczynski

Located on a barren stretch of Metropolitan Avenue in Brooklyn that’s also home to some large artist studio buildings, the first-floor space has been turned into a polished gallery, with a rectangular white prism, wooden floors, and a small front desk familiar to anyone who has visited any Chelsea or Lower East Side operation (Transfer’s skinny layout has more in common with the latter than the former). Outwardly unassuming, the clean space taking roost in a relatively unpopulated location creates a great context for considering an art form that’s often dematerialized.

Transfer was started by Kelani Nichole, an independent curator known for her work with the net-friendly, Philadelphia-based Little Berlin artist-run collective and gallery, which has shown artists and groups like Computers Club, F.A.T. Lab, and Petra Cortright. The new space’s programming reflects a deep engagement with the internet art community; upcoming exhibitions are planned for emerging online artists including A. Bill Miller, Lorna Mills, and Rollin Leonard, as well as digital art elder statesman G.H. Hovagimyan. Transfer’s inaugural exhibition, which opened last Saturday, is a solo show by Alexandra Gorczynski.

Alexandra Gorczynski's desktop wall at Transfer

Alexandra Gorczynski’s desktop wall at Transfer

Gorczynski, whose work has been shown at new media powerhouses like Eyebeam and 319 Scholes, covered the front wall of the gallery with an instantly familiar dark-purple landscape — it’s the default background for any Mac computer. Attached to the wall are blue file folders that mimic Apple’s own icons perfectly, with the folders’ names inscribed below them in white vinyl. The wall is a desktop, and Gorczynski has populated it with thumbnail-like objects that are actually digital paintings.

Alexandra Gorczynski at Transfer Gallery

Alexandra Gorczynski at Transfer Gallery

Printed and mounted on foamcore, the mostly-abstract paintings wrangle a bunch of digital aesthetic clichés: drop shadow, transparencies, and faux spray paint. They’re charming and fun to look at, and at a price of $300 per edition, extremely affordable, but the best part about them might be the file-name titles underneath the images. Rough paintings brushed onto Wacom tablets are difficult to take seriously.

The gallery website explains that Gorczynski’s work “shares a personal look at the metaphors inherent in a networked life,” but the pieces rarely extend beyond reciting the visual archetypes of our digital existences. The computer desktop, after all, is by now a pretty old concept.

Though the first exhibition at the gallery isn’t quite a knock out, Transfer’s polish and commitment to bringing internet artists into real space should help it become an authoritative voice in years to come. The gallery’s plan to help produce salable work both in the form of exhibitions and editions to be sold through their (excellently designed) website also hint at pushing toward solutions for some of the primary problems of digital art in the commercial sphere.

Alexandra Gorczynski: Truisms runs at Transfer Gallery (1030 Metropolitan Ave, East Williamsburg, Brooklyn) through April 6.

Kyle Chayka was senior editor at Hyperallergic. He is a cultural critic based in Brooklyn and has contributed to publications including ARTINFO, ARTnews, Modern Painters, LA Weekly, Kill Screen, Creators...

20 replies on “Brooklyn’s New Transfer Gallery Brings Internet Art Into Real Space”

  1. “Physical spaces that make the necessary effort to turn internet art into compelling physical installations have been slow[ ] in coming.” Why is this transformation necessary? This strikes me as about as necessary as turning James Joyces’ collected works into a laser rock show.

    In all seriousness, though, by converting internet artworks into physical objects at home in the commercial gallery, you lose everything that defines internet as a medium. Sure, digital aesthetic cliches can be printed and sold, but internet-ness only exists online. Appearance can be reproduced, the orientation of meaning inherent to the medium cannot. The characteristics of non-physicality, infinite reproducibility, and world-wide accessibility which side-step gallery culture and commodification disappear when the object is printed and hung in a gallery. If you want compelling physical installations, visit an installation. If you want compelling internet art, go online.

    1. Not to be totally cynical or crass, but my answer to this—”Why is this transformation necessary?”—would be money, I think.

      1. “Capitalism batters down all walls” was rattling in the back of my head when I wrote that comment, incidentally. I didn’t have the courage to say it, though, for fear of sounding cynical or crass.

        1. Ha! I was at first also thinking something like, “grumble grumble, evil capitalism, etc.” But then it also occurred to me, if there are net artists who want to use a physical gallery as a means to sell their work and make money, more power to them. I think punktoad’s comment above is also a good one—art often changes contexts, and not always for the better, but it’s just sort of a reality. (I wonder if this is almost like art in the age of mechanical reproduction in reverse, trying to reinstate the aura.)

          1. I would say that in shifting contexts, an analog with a similar but reoriented meaning is created. The form of net art as it is conceived and created is to be received online. Something different is necessarily created when the work is printed for reception in the gallery. To continue to call it net art is misleading; a film based on a novel is not a novel though it tells the same story and may rely on filmic counterparts to many of the novel’s formal conceits, it is a work in translation. Artists are certainly entitled to find ways to monetize their work, I am not a purist who believes commodification is a betrayal of the artist’s freedom – the artist lives in a capitalist system and the shape of her life is necessarily formed by that. But I think we should be careful to separate the different aspects of their practice, even when they are closely related (as is evident here).

            I do think there is something to your comment on the possibility of an effort to reinstate the aura. Examples such as the painting on the wacom tablet and the desktop background wall do suggest something of that. Having received all of my Benjamin second-hand, I don’t feel comfortable saying more.

          2. false dichotomy, netart can be online, offline, or simultaneously both, it depends on the work; and like all terminology, netart is not bound to its first usage indefinitely.

          3. I think we’re talking past each other. I have been referring to internet art as a medium, like painting or film. If I understand you, you are talking about netart as the product of netartists. Is there no distinction to be made? By what I understand your comment to mean, I am indeed failing to engage this art on its own terms. I will happily concede that my initial definition may be wrong as well, and am curious to hear how I might be off. I won’t ask you to provide a definition of what constitutes netart (it’s such a young thing, it seems hardly fair to demand such) but would be curious to hear, from someone with a dog in the fight: what are the general features of netart?

      2. Is it any different than viewing physical gallery objects on the Internet or in a magazine etc?

        1. Yes, a physical gallery object viewed online is read as a reproduction while the internet artifact is “original” wherever it is seen, or the concept of the “original” is moot. No doubt the gallery object can be translated onto the internet as a work of art rather than reproduction, but I would argue that such a translation results in the creation of a new work of art.

    2. But I think there’s also something interesting to be thought about at precisely this intersection–and it’s not just money. Making these two categories “real” and “digital” diametrically opposed is a sloppy argument (please see the copious notes about “digital dualism” over at Cyborgology: Rather, as the Internet is more and more integrated into our everyday lives and meatspaces, (net) art needs to think about this too. We see analog art constantly online–these media have found a preferred methods of digital representation. Why not think about the reverse? Why would it inherently be compromising for digital/web-based work?

      1. As you point out, the internet is increasingly integrated into our everyday lives in meatspace. As such, why is it necessary to find an expression for art made of internet in the gallery system, a system regarded by many as exclusive and far-removed from everyday life (beyond seeking patronage)?

        As far as my splitting the “real” and “digital” into separate, diametrically opposed categories goes, I think you’re being a bit harsh. I think the most that can be said of what I have written is that I view art galleries and online spaces as different venues where different things are possible. Is it truly a violation of cyborg theory to conceive of a set of attributes which might characterize “internet-ness?”

        A bit of an aside, but, one never forgets that one is looking at the analog work of art in reproduction when viewed online. The context has changed and how its meaning is constructed has shifted. A few theorists (like Heidegger) argue that when a work of art is recontextualized, it can only be experienced in translation. Because the original context cannot be 100% reconstructed and the new viewer has arrived with a world-conception different, even infinitesimally, from that of the original context, the work of art means something different once it arrives someplace new.

        1. My argument is not necessarily for net art entering a gallery, but merely physical space. It’s perhaps implied because galleries are still the most visible (to a community who cares) physical venues for art to be seen, and whether or not this is good or bad is to me an entirely different conversation. My real point here is that considering digital objects in relation to physical objects is not merely selling out–I think there are important issues around that relationship that deserve to be teased out.

          Sorry, I didn’t mean YOUR argument in particular was sloppy, but rather that the theoretical position that understands “real” and “digital” as separate is a weak one. I think you’re totally right that there is a specificity to a physical (note: this is not synonymous with real!) gallery and an online one, it’s just a matter of being precise about what that difference is–I’d argue it’s not a difference of “reality” or “realities.”

          As for the analog art in reproduction issue, this is a very interesting question to me. I sort of agree with you–at least in this very particular moment–that we’re aware of the issue of reproduction of certain kinds of analog art when we encounter it online. BUT I think this is changing and it’s a change that began with photography (this also came up in the Tumblr Art Symposium). I’m not so sure that we’re always thinking about the reproductive quality of a photograph of a painting, particularly one we’ve never seen IRL (in this case, as opposed to a book/slide/or online representation). How often do you think about celluloid when you’re watching a DVD? Or fiber paper when you see an analog photo online? I think digital technology subsumes other media, assuredly not seamlessly but I think our sensitivity to mediation is slowly waning even if ontological differences will always exist.

          Sorry if I’m picky but this is what my work is about!

          1. Haha, no need to apologize, this is one of the most engaging art discussions I’ve had in weeks. If anyone needs to apologize, it’s probably me – it is sometimes easy to forget that this stuff doesn’t exist solely in the aetheric realm of theory, that there are real people with their livelihoods at stake here (and it is egregious of me, considering my partner is a comix artist faced with many of the same pressures affecting netartists in particular, like how does one feed oneself selling a product that may not have a physical manifestation). Apologies for implying Gorczynski is arting wrong (I was! Sorry. I tend to come out swinging, there’s no excuse). I do not think the gallery is the ideal venue to put this art, and I do think making physical analogues of internet art creates new artifacts with a slightly different orientation of meaning (which, if I understood Anthony Antonelli correctly, and am willing to agree with, does not preclude it from being netart – hell, I’m willing to adopt a whole new definition of what constitutes internet as a medium).

            I want to go back to my original question: why does this transformation from digital to physical need to occur? Money is AN answer, but I feel like it’s the easy answer, and it clearly goes beyond that in your own practice (it’s important because you say it’s important, and no doubt to Gorczynski’s as well, but it goes further than that, no?). Why is this important when the internet is already available in the pockets of nearly everyone in the community who cares, certainly available in their homes, and woven into every hour of the lives of millions of people who don’t care now but may tomorrow? And if the transformation is necessary, how does it remain faithful to the digital counterpart (art books? zines? paste ups?)? As I have very loudly broadcasted, I think translation, with recognition that the medium and meaning have shifted, is the best that can be hoped for.

            Regarding reproduction, yeah, it’s an endlessly interesting and slippery subject. I think two things need to be separated when discussing reproduction: art made for reproduction and art with a definite original. I think you are quite right in saying our sensitivity to mediation is waning, with a caveat! Only with regards to art made for reproduction. As reproductive accuracy and the platforms we use improve, it does not seem impossible that the sensitivity could altogether disappear in some situations (where is the work of art in the lithograph? in the physical artifact? or in the image that happens to be pressed on paper? certainly not the plate?). With objects whose unique originality remains important, the sensitivity cannot disappear, and I don’t think it really has anything to do with the quality of reproduction. Knowing that an image depicts an original work of art by its nature precludes mistaking the image for the original.

            And please, be picky, you are well within your rights. At times I think I sound condescending, but I really don’t have all the answers, and I really do want to engage this stuff seriously and thoughtfully (it’s why my avatar is all over this thread).

          2. I’m not sure that the transformation NEEDS to occur. I think it really depends on the work and the issues of the work.

            I think maybe we’re also talking about two slightly different things–I’m not talking about mere translation, but thinking about different forms that images and visual ideas take (maybe even an engagement in the technological history of the image). Almost inevitably, you don’t get the exact same thing in analog form that you would have gotten in digital form and it’s (I’ll speak generally here with no real authority) not really the point to end up with the exact same object but rather to see how they differ.

            For me, I’ve specifically been interested in how physical metaphors have been mapped onto abstract “spaces”–i.e. cyberspace. So I’ve been thinking about different kinds of physicality or models of physicality of the web. I’ve made a series of videos about this, GIFs, and I’m working on a larger website project surrounding this idea, but all this work ABOUT the physical in relation to the digital has lead me finally to make tangible objects (maybe even paintings, god help me).

          3. Yeah, I think we have been talking about slightly different things. What you’ve written here actually helps bring what netart is into focus for me. This whole time I have been too preoccupied with internet art as framed by the article, which I understand as a medium. It is more useful to think of Gorczynski as a netartist producing netart, rather than simply an artist (ostensibly) producing internet art for the gallery (incidentally “netart” is not mentioned once in the article, no doubt it is assumed that I would have arrived with that term in mind); your description of your practice elucidates why physical analogues might be important to netart in a way Anthony Antonellis’ comment that “netart can be online, offline, or simultaneously both” in and of itself did not. Really I misunderstood the terms of the conversation happening here.

            Thank you for taking the time to educate and engage with at length some random schmuck on the internet who Has Opinions. I apologize for raising hackles when I should have known better.

  2. Between net artists viewing the work online is valuated in almost in the same way as viewing the concept IRL. Of course they can say “that looked crap irl” but they still like the idea or the idea that the documentation proposes. After all, most of us only come to understand Duchamp’s urinal through Stieglitz’s photograph, and Constant Dullaart’s large printouts of the DVD logo through his photos Were either of those works knockouts url? I’m not sure if any of that makes sense.

    I guess my initial idea of valuating work conceptually only apply to literal translations of work too, where the work is representational irl. Artie Vierkant’s pieces seem to take the form of different media in output, and sometimes that is also interesting (video stills that become 3D printed models for example)

    I’m not really trying to pull your leg as much as question what makes a spatial rendition of a net art piece successful…?

Comments are closed.