We are happy to introduce a new series of posts inviting curators and artists to share and discuss their latest projects for the CAN audience. Kicking things is the work of Carmen Salas and Estela Oliva from Alpha-ville, a London based creative studio that organises, curates and produces work at the intersection of art, technology and digital culture, “New Realities” is their most recent exhibition, and currently showing at Lima’s Espacio Fundación Telefónica.
Founded in 2009 as a festival of digital arts and culture, Alpha-ville’s practice focuses on the creation and production of digital projects, experiences, installations, conferences, exhibitions, educational programmes and live events. They work with a wide range of clients and partners from art and culture, creative industries, education and public and private sectors. At Alpha-ville, they also create and run self-initiated projects such as Exchange Creative Conference, Alpha-ville Live Series and more. The team draws on a range of eclectic experience in the cultural, creative and digital sectors.
Below, featured artist Karolina Sobecka and writer Django Wylie frame the works and thematics of Alpha-ville’s ‘New Realities’.
↑ Photo above: LaTurbo Avedon. New Realities exhibition, Espacio Fundación Telefónica Lima.
Text by Karolina Sobecka and Django Wylie
Taking place at Espacio Fundación Telefónica in Lima between 17 March – 19 June, New Realities is a touring exhibition curated and produced by Alpha-ville which explores how the phenomenal pace of technological advancement is changing the way we perceive ourselves and our world. At New Realities, I was first struck by the arresting visions of the future put forward by each of the twelve participating artists and designers. Curators Carmen Salas and Estela Oliva have produced a comprehensive and bracing programme that critically examines the present moment, while anticipating exciting new directions for art and personal identities in the increasingly digitised and internet-driven years to come.
The exhibition comprises three thematic areas, the first of which is ‘The Expanded Human’. In this section, visitors are invited to engage with the ongoing radical shift in human identity brought about by the alter-egos, avatars and virtual presences of the web. The tension between reality and the online world is brilliantly examined by LaTurbo Avedon — an artist whose real-world identity is unknown and exists solely as a digital persona. Her Club Rothko series constitutes a perspicacious dramatisation of the destruction/construction of the self in the digital age.
Two of my works also form part of ‘The Expanded Human’. It’s You and All the Universe is Full of the Lives of Perfect Creatures both interrogate issues surrounding the self and the other in our tech-centric paradigm. The latter is an interactive mirror which cleverly overlays an animal head over the face of the viewer. The piece constitutes a playful enquiry into self-awareness, empathy and non-verbal communication by lending participants an experiential insight into others’ minds. Similar concerns are also central to It’s You. A rear projection that explores the mechanisms of public behaviours and social interactions, the piece impressively melds the virtual and the real and speaks of our social-media dominated lives.
The second theme of the exhibition is ‘And Human Created Machine. And Machine Created…’. Here, Realität’s Microsonic Landscapes and generative artist LIA’s Arcs 21 app pose thought-provoking existential questions, highly germane in an era wherein the digital tools we have created are, in turn, reforming our lives. The work of the celebrated Mexican studio takes the form of an algorithmic rendering of the music of Portishead, Anthony and the Johnsons, Nick Drake, Einsturzende Neubauten and Für Alina. In keeping with one of the exhibitions goals — to examine the interplay of various media in our new reality — in Microsonic Landscapes we see see sound cleverly made visible. This said, perhaps the blurring of machine and man is never better exemplified than by Jan de Coster’s gEOF, a ‘friendly robot’ assembled from found parts, 3D prints and laser-cut pieces. Throughout the exhibition’s run, the little anthropoid machine is serving as the photographer, light-heartedly pointing to a future wherein even creative human roles will carry the risk of usurpation by automata.
‘Brave New Worlds’ constitutes the final theme of New Realities. On show is a tour de force of works which alternately take a wry look at the future of the built environment and form a percipient take on the interrelation of the natural landscape and its virtual representation. Lawrence Lek’s Unreal Estate is a particular highlight. This simulation essay sees London’s Royal Academy of Art translated into the visual language of video games. Using graphics software to render the famous building (which has been recently sold off and unsettlingly moved to a tropical island) in a film narrated by a fictional Chinese billionaire, Lek confronts viewers with painfully timely questions about the future of art and capital at a time of increasing economic inequality. Ephemeral, understated and romantic, David Quayola’s Natures provide a pleasing counterpoint to Lek’s vision. His close-ups of plants, starkly lit and filmed against a backdrop of computer-generated imagery, gives the viewer hope for a future in which the manmade and the natural, the digital and the physical can compliment, and perhaps also improve upon, each other.
I left the exhibition more fully convinced of the idea that, rather than switching between the online world and ‘real life’, we live at such a time where both modes are more or less indistinguishable and certainly co-dependent. The challenge for the future, then, is to ensure a harmonious interaction between human and machine, real and virtual. New Realities brilliantly brings this tension to life. Presenting viewers with artworks involving 3D printing, HD video, robotics, graphics software, digital photography and immersive installations, the exhibition deftly demonstrates how the internet and adjunct technologies have created exciting opportunities for art and creative expression. If artists really do anticipate the trajectory of technological development, then from this show it looks like we are entering a very interesting new paradigm indeed.
The exhibition runs until Friday 17 June 2016, free access, all ages. You can read more about the exhibition here:
DATES: 17 March – 19 June 2016
ADDRESS: Av. Arequipa 1155, Lima (Peru)
Opening Times: Tuesday to Saturday: 10:00 to 20:00 h. / Sundays: 12:00 to 19:00 h. / Closed on Mondays and bank holidays.
Text by Karolina Sobecka and Django Wylie.