“If I were a curator” rants are always the best; you get years of napkin-scribblings in a matter of minutes, and every now and again you come across something honestly new. Net artist Duncan Alexander has offered a few digital art exhibition ideas over at his blog Hypothete, and we just have to quibble with a few of them.
The idea of hanging newfangled artworks in an oldfangled style isn’t exactly groundbreaking. Instead of referencing the salon, why not use the virtual environment as a referential context? The verticality of the salon doesn’t retain much meaning today, but the constant unidirectional top-to-bottom movement of browsers, word processors, chat rooms, and terminals offers a rich vein of meaning. In fact, we don’t even need to speak in generalities here: artworks made for Dump.fm or Computers Club, for instance, are specifically made in vertical dialogue, and adding that aspect back into the work in a gallery display would be a welcome addition.
2. Offline Store: Store that sells different mass-produced net art objects every month (like photo rugs, USB drives, etc.). Takes out the middleman – no need to copy the original when you can send the file to the manufacturer. Artists may not have say as to how their work is displayed.
Net art swag could definitely provide some cash for an artist or gallery, but there are plenty of venues that can do this already – even Cafepress allows for this type of production. Working with artists to come up with merch types that best highlight the work, or indeed best highlight the distribution process itself, has potential. Alexandra Domanovic’s “Nineteen Thirty Stacks” are a good example: they’re PDFs, but their visual content transforms when they’re printed and stacked. This might require less curatorial creativity, but the artist should have full control over the representation of their work despite it’s ubiquitous accessibility.
If you’re not interested in merch, dead drops (Aram Bartholl’s concept for shows that live in USB drives embedded in public spaces) offers another solution to embedding net art information in physical space, though that idea only goes so far. Or, you know, so we thought until we saw this (note the USB drive in the sculpture’s hand). Can we get more art with functioning digital reproductive organs?
It’s a good idea, but custom holography might be too pricey for most artists – it’s doable as a production medium, but it’s hard to imagine anybody having enough money to get invested in the material and process in any real sense. Oliver Laric, though, might have found an affordable solution to utilize this effect. Of course, the labs which provide these services have their own ready-made oeuvre to explore, and that could be fertile ground.
4. OS: operating system-themed works. I have at least two large works planned for something like this, just need a wealthy, loving patron. Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
This is a refreshing idea. The move from strictly offline digital art to almost exclusively browser-based work has broadened art’s audience, but that’s not necessarily always a worthwhile objective for art. Jens Haaning’s Turkish Jokes, for instance, involved the artist pointedly limiting his audience, broadcasting jokes in the center of Oslo solely in Turkish; Turkish-speakers laughed, then noticed other people laughing, then formed a (fleeting) bond. Audience scope is a malleable thing, and has potential as an art medium – operating system-specificity is a way towards that.