The Cermâ exhibition space occupies that fascinating area between internet appearance and cultural institution. It exists in both the built and the virtual environment. In the virtual part, which happens on the internet, everything is digital. Cermâ explores the possibilities that arise through this and look into a digitalised future.
SPAMM @ Cermâ it’s a guest exhibition curated by SPAMM (SuPer Art Modern Museum), which displays tendencies within the current digital art. Anthony Antonellis, Jasper Elings, Emilio Gomariz e Michael Manning will present their work in the first part of the two-part exhibition in SPAMM’s virtual project room. They all create animated GIFs and sculptures for a virtual space.
#1: GIFs – new sculptures of the digital avant-garde
»Visual arts have entered a new era. It’s a place where immediacy rules, where visual arts becomes virtual«, promises the Super Art Modern Museum, or SPAMM for short. Michaël Borras aka Systaime and Thomas Cheneseau founded the online museum in France, albeit that geographical information is practically irrelevant in the internet era. Borras and Cheneseau present more than 50 works from the `community´, another concept that does not follow geographical frontiers. Eight of these works can now be seen at CERMÂ in two parts. The new `Digital Art Avant-garde´ discovers each other, receives and produces, communicates and grows. This is a scene that is not accessible to everyone, nevertheless extremely productive.
All over the world, new artistic positions arise that evade the ›White Cube‹: animated GIFs, Glitches, web based conceptual art, three-dimensional animations. Institutions have grown around digital art, real and virtual spaces such as the Rhizome at the New Museum in New York, the MACBA in Barcelona and the Berlin based Transmediale give these positions a stage and an audience. Pixels are the material artists use to paint and shape, realizing their aesthetic visions.
But can we herald the beginning of a new era, or is this just a handful of nerds who place some virtual artefacts here and there on the web? It seems quite apropos to use a commonplace cliché: one imagines pale, socially awkward creatures suffering from a lack of sunlight who sit in a darkened basement staring at brightly illuminated screens, typing furiously and moving pixels. The reason why digital art has not yet found its way into lounges, the ›white cubes‹, the living rooms of the postmodern society, may partially be explained with this stereotype.
However, there is nothing wrong with being seen as a nerd. This stereotype allows young artists to experiment and can also become the material for humorous self-reflection. Jeremy Bailey, who was part of the previous CERMÂ exhibition, likes to poke fun at the typical nerd and the whole spectrum of media art. He creates pixel sculptures, which he integrates in video clips as overlays to his body and comments ironically.
A guest exhibition curated by SPAMM displays tendencies within the current digital art. Four artists work in the first part of the two-part exhibition in SPAMM’s virtual project room. They all create animated GIFs and sculptures for a virtual space.
Anthony Antonellis lives and works on the internet, as his short biography states. His work is called ›beholdbehold‹ two GIF sculptures placed next to each other. They adapt the typical art exhibition to a digital environment. Antonelli displays dancing patterns, Windows emblems and radiant dots chasing in the viewer’s direction in a virtual showcase. This hypnotic screensaver aesthetic becomes art.
The second work cannot be interpreted at first sight. On top of a marble texture pedestal, a rectangular box rotates slowly around its axis, around the edges, stripes of a picture with flowers can be seen. Maybe a photograph, maybe a photorealistic illustration – in the digital era realism replaces reality. Much more than the flowers, the structure of bricks or pieces of concrete characterizes the appearance. Antonellis toys with the possibilities of computer illustration, the brick character of virtual realities, the virtual mimesis, which means not only the remodelling of reality but also the expansion of it.
In an email to Manuel Rossner, the founder of CERMÂ, he described his inspiration: »I went through a period of time where I felt real objects should become GIFs. Sort of like found objects that were replicated, photographed, or recreated digitally. The sculpture on the right was an object built to mimic something I saw in real life, an object that I felt looked as though it must have come from the internet. Basically it is sidewalk tiles in a display at a Baumarkt in Weimar. The display case was just a metal frame, but the frame had a giant photograph of flowers printed on it. I recreated it as a solid shape using images from the internet, and used a photograph of the real tiles for the centre. Someday I’d like to see a real 3D version of it being built, but for now, the internet is a good home.«
The ›objet trouvé‹ reverberates also into digital art, albeit as a virtual replica of the object. In 1917, Marcel Duchamp started a discussion about what can be art with ›Fountain‹, a urinal presented as a sculpture; this defined the start of a new era in fine arts.
»Invisible “O”bject« is the title of Emilio Gomariz’ work. It is visible (disregarding the title), but only on second sight: In front of the gray and white checkerboard background from the image editing software Photoshop, which is the atelier of many digital artists, a transparent ring, almost like a doughnut, rotates. This requires some concentration because the ring does not manifest itself at a casual glance. The longer one focuses on the rotating ring, the more one would like to grab it. In CERMÂ’s project room this sculpture gains some height, it almost reaches the floor and the ceiling – a gigantic virtual Op Art object.
Michael Manning gives room for interpretation, the title »She was everything« does not correspond with the five plains lying over each other, flat rectangular panels that float with some distance between them and move synchronously. On the surface of the slightly transparent plains wood, water and a sky with white clouds can be seen. Besides its shape and array, the second panel irritates the viewer. It looks like a nubby steel sheet, but in its centre, a drop of water seems to cause concentric waves. All the other panels also have this concentric wave pattern, which creates an effect as if water had seeped through the sculpture.
Manning wrote to Manuel Rossner about his position: »The piece conceptually is about the collapse of the natural and technological. the idea being that they are one in the same. Each layer of the GIF represents a different natural element and the 5th being humans or technology. The animation is meant to show their overlap, blending and perpetual interconnected nature. My work focuses on the augmentation and distortion of our perception of reality by technology and the deconstruction of the false divide between the natural and technological.«
Manning turns nature into a flat visual trace, the constructed aesthetic and its artificial movement contrast the affectionate title and dominate the work. The virtual element, to which our reality is gradually moving, is stronger.
The fourth work is of a more concrete nature: a three dimensional skull rotates quickly around its axis, in the background there is a freeze of Englishman Damien Hirst’s famous diamond-encrusted skull. Jasper Elings titled this work »For the Love of God» which alludes to religious fantatism. With his explicit appropriation of Hirst’s masterpiece, he hints at the art market. Fanatism is part of the art market – a kind of madness that dies out in a new era of art?
Digital art on the internet can often be acquired for free. This challenges traditional concepts of authorship, aesthetic and reception. These concepts root in Modernism and have barely been challenged by Postmodernism. Digital art does not quite fit these concepts. The SPAMM manifesto has found an answer to this: »(…) if ›contemporary art‹ isn’t ›from today‹ anymore, but just a continuing period of the XIX° century ›modern art‹, we can proclaim – without hesitation – the existence of the Super Modern Art.«
Text: Sabine Weier
Exhibition location (online only) www.cerma.de
From 27/08/2012 to 01/10/2012
Michaël Borras a.k.a Systaime
Sponsored by: Hochschule für Gestaltung Offenbach
(The Offenbach University of Art and Design), 706