An art fair where the physical plane meets the new, digital flesh
TheWrong biennale incorporates IRL and digital components
If you have an Internet connection, you have a ticket to one of the largest contemporary art fairs, and that's not some lame statement about the wonders of Google Image search.
It's called The Wrong (again) - New Digital Art Biennale and it features work by more than 1,000 artists from around the world, making it the biggest of its kind. Starting Sunday, anyone can experience this collection online — a vast exhibition of digital stills, video, animated GIFs — by going to thewrong.org through January 31. From there, you'll be directed to some 50 separate websites. They're the virtual "pavilions" of the fair, where you might visit shows that have been assembled by 90 international curators, including a handful who are repping for Canada.
Shauna Jean Doherty is the co-curator of group exhibition The New Flesh — one of TheWrong's 40 real-life shows. It runs November 14 - 16 at Vancouver's VIVO Media Arts Centre, where Doherty is the Outreach and Distribution Manager. (Perte de Signal in Montreal and the Drake Hotel and Xpace in Toronto will also participate as IRL "embassies" for The Wrong; Xpace, for example, hosts a show, 100percentreal, Nov.6 - Dec. 12.)
"Internet art and digital art has had difficulty finding its way into large art institutions, it's still sort of a niche form of art making," says Doherty, and that's why, she says, The Wrong is such an interesting project for VIVO, an artist-run centre "committed to the vanguard of digital art."
Her statement really echoes the whole M.O. of the biennale, which first launched in 2013, founded by Spanish curator, artist and ROJO general manager David Quiles Guillo. The biennale's mission statement? "To create, promote and push positive forward-thinking contemporary digital art to a wider audience worldwide."
And while the prospect of navigating more than 1,000 artworks over the span of three months is overwhelming, it's still nowhere near as mind-breaking as the volume of digital art just floating around online. The curated pavilions, which explore different topics and themes, make the whole thing much more "user-friendly" — in relative terms, at least.
So who are those "users?" Unlike, say, The Venice Biennale or Berlin Biennial — or even a local gallery show — this exhibition is instantly accessible. Everyone can click www.thewrong.org. At the same time, says Doherty, it's helping build an arts community that's still overlooked, by connecting artists and curators everywhere. For example, The New Flesh, her show at VIVO, involves a global roster. Locals, her co-curators Erica Lapadat-Janzen and Erik Zepka, for example, are among the exhibitionists. International contributors include Bex Ilsey (Manchester, U.K.) and Emilio Gomariz (Alicante, Spain).
Together, their work makes for an investigation into how we think of our physical selves in the 21st century. The title should be a nice CanCon tip off. Remember David Cronenberg's Videodrome? "For the exhibition specifically we started working through the idea of how Cronenberg represents the body — like in Existenz for example, or Videodrome. Already in the '80s he was thinking about the body in relation to technology," says Doherty.
"We noticed that a lot of Internet artists were using the body as the primary subject of the work ... and often the bodies are fragmented or distorted or sort of grotesque looking," she continues. "I mean so many of us represent ourselves online using just digital images," whether that means Facebook or LinkedIn, or Tinder. "How do we get implicated in those digital technologies we use to represent ourselves?" she says. "We are becoming digital beings. ... I think it's important for the general public to start being critical about our engagements with these devices, and how it impacts the material body."
Many of the exhibition's works can be viewed online, but you'll want to note that The New Flesh, like other embassy exhibitions for The Wrong, is a gallery show that can only be experienced in real life.
Why is it important to put digital art, much of which is widely available to a mass audience, in a traditional gallery setting? Community is one major reason.
"In the physical space people get to experience the work together. Sometimes the art is interactive, and the meaning of the work grows when people are engaging with it together." And if they're there, they likely have a few key things in common — "certain sensibilities and a knowledge of art history," Doherty says, as well as a mutual passion for digital.
"Since The Wrong is this international project, it can link people who are like-minded across the globe. To me, and the people who operate within my community, digital art is contemporary art."
The New Flesh. Featuring Organ Armani, Rollin Leonard, Bex Ilsley, Kristel Saan, Emilio Gomariz, Olga Mikh Fedorova, V5MT (Max Nah), Erik H Zepka, Erica Lapadat-Janzen. Nov. 14 - 16. VIVO Media Arts Centre. Vancouver. www.vivomediaarts.com
The Wrong (again) - New Digital Art Biennale. Nov. 1 - Jan. 31. www.thewrong.org