For two generations, our global environment has been transformed through data sharing via the Internet. Galleries and museums are no longer the exclusive space to exhibit works of art; and yet, screens are not the only medium for display. Therefore, we are required to travel back in time to capture the various images where the transformation takes its source in objects that are at the same time physical and immaterial. Art in Motion in the age of Web 2.0.
Ten years after Nam June Paik, the pioneer of video art, passed away, it is time to realise that there is an unconsciousness of forms. Paik based his work on a research whose writing is founded on the integration of artistic disciplines and techniques that were as artistic as the resources available at that time. It was the encounter with the avant-garde musical movement Fluxus during the 1960s in the United States, alongside his imaginary world rife with robots, that were the determining factors for the Korean artist to create sculptures of electronic images.
We can even stamp a more accurate date on an artwork that changed our relationship with art dramatically. In 1956 in Paris, Nicolas Schöffer, with the help of the company Philips, created his cybernetic sculpture CYSPI. Equipped with electronic sensors, it is without a doubt a work of art, instead of an aesthetic machine. The sculpture will become, in its own right, an element of scenography in a performance with a dancer. A new language has been created and today it is taken for granted that contemporary artists will create as many performances as videos in their exhibitions. However, these situations are differently nuanced beyond video art, both aesthetically and theoretically, that we can or cannot name with the one title of digital art. Art, from now on, is an interaction, which surpasses the famous modern formula of Marcel Duchamp.
It is no longer just our visual perception that makes an artwork, all of our senses are virtually summoned. These circumstances take us back to the last century where abstraction became the matriarch of art extending its diverse yet sometimes contradictory branches between generations and continents. Nevertheless, the connections possible, from that moment on, are in the image of our digital environment; and pass through walls, our bodies and our consciousness. We have no doubt as to this phenomenon when we visit certain galleries that are sprouting like mushrooms on the planet and their generations of artists, historical and/or emerging.
Since 2014, the art fair UNPAINTED in Munich has become the first of its kind dedicated to an art that plays with media but, that also knows how to renew techniques and disciplines, both classical and modern. The old mediums are not dead and long live the new medium for art today! Appointing the New York collective DIS, Lauren Boyle, Solomon Chase, Marco Roso and David Toro as the commissioners of the 9th Berlin Biennale in 2016, contemporary art has demonstrated its capacity to accommodate artists of an art form called post-Internet, of which the Munich art fair only showcases one facet.
On the 10th October 2013, in collaboration with the Internet companies Tumblr and Paddle8, Phillips Auction organised the first of its Paddles On! auction series that was solely devoted to digital art. Was this a continuity of the work of artists using the network “Netart” in the mid-nineties with its democratisation, or the reality of a new emerging market? For certain artists, spaces are jostled beyond the identified centers of art like the museums. It is, therefore, logical that the auctioneer Phillips also supported the exhibition, from 29th January to 15th May 2016, entitled Electronic Superhighway (1966-2016) at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. The choice of the title makes a direct reference to Nam June Paik. The show presented a hundred multimedia works, as well as representing other mediums such as film, painting, sculpture, photography and drawing. A few weeks after the end of the exhibition, the director of Art Basel highlighted the importance of digital art during an interview on CNN, just before the opening of the High Mass.
On Sunday, 19th June 2016, a digital artist, Inti Romero, as a pseudonym, represented by the online gallery Daft, was auctioned off to the highest bidder during the sale that followed the exhibition Mouvement Art Technologie at the private space "19 Côté Cour" in Paris. An exposition that had woven links since 1956 with 64 artists, from Nicolas Schöffer, with a photographic triptych to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the creation of his CYSPI, to an artist like Inti Romero, influenced by social networks and the digital aesthetic. We no longer hide the pixels of digital images and we can acquire multiple works such as printed editions, numbered and signed, as well as online.
In her text Lost Not Found, written for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2008, the artist Marisa Olson alludes to this new situation for post-Internet art. The text is still available on her personal website and other archival data sites. It allows us to learn about, understand and discover these very real parallel universes. Critics and historians, like artists, are making their work more accessible to collectors and visitors. For example, the encyclopedic and labyrinthine Media Art History is a free online platform resulting from the collaboration of academic researchers from around the globe.
But have no doubt, the experience has just begun and not only by switching on your computer or your tablet, but by opening the doors of galleries, of which Bitforms in New York is one of the forerunners, with its presence at major contemporary art fairs. An "interactive" artist like Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, has for example, been represented for many years in galleries that are more "classical". Also, our lifestyle is conditioned by an evolution that has passed the point of no return. Art cannot escape from this and certain creators liberate us from it and/or chain us to it through their forms and even their dialogue with our digital environment. Let us pay a tribute, in the form of an even more complex and open story, by evoking the living artist Manfred Mohr, a pioneer in the use of the computer after a career as a musician, whose first exhibition was held at Daniel Templon’s gallery in Paris in 1968. His presence, not only in several galleries all over the world, but also in the exhibition The Thinking Machine Ramon Llull and the "ars combinatoria", from July 14th to December 11th 2016, at the Contemporary Cultural Centre of Barcelona, is not only art in motion with technology, but acts as a testament to our present time, referencing our past to a 13th century figure in a contemporary exhibition. Today's art plays, like we do, with computer data, without doubt in order to open up to a world beyond our epoch.
by Franck Ancel
About Franck Ancel