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Bringing digital art out of the cold

All over Europe, digital artists are reconciling radical work with interior space

With its tendency toward incessant remix, the new media cycle has made a mess of our cultural boundaries. But our endless technological capacity to pick and choose genres has led to some inspiring art: there’s an extravagance of video, internet and digital art that seeks to subtly differentiate itself from its normative competitors.  But apart from the odd screening at performance art or fashion parties, what is to be done with the endless hours of video? Can it win the same place in the foyers of elite homes, banks and government offices now enjoyed by painting or sculpture?

As philosopher Peter Sloterdijk puts it, modernity has ruined our belief in the inviolability of social spheres: our homes, national borders, and even the earth’s atmosphere no longer offer much protection.  We are irredeemably open and vulnerable. For bourgeois art lovers, the appropriate strategy is to create a safe haven by gathering a selection of threatening objects and bringing them inside their homes. In this way, digital art gains a modern allure to collectors, even if its simultaneity and breaking down of spheres might be kind of creepy at times.

Dazed looks at the artists and practitioners all over Europe who domesticate digital art, irrevocably transforming the meanings of home as well as interior and public spaces.

Moscow: AES+F and Reincarnation

Russian art group AES+F produced a video art project for *Wallpaper called Reincarnation, a trilogy about modernity, heaven, purgatory and hell based on the depiction of purgatory in Giovanni Bellini's Allegoria Sacra. Wayward children and Biblical characters are delayed in the modern equivalent of Nowhere: an airport departure lounge.

Now acquired by the digital art platform Sedition, the work is now available on a platform which enables people to buy the digital artworks of famous artists for as little as a fiver. The works are produced in limited edition multiples, meaning that they can be traded and may even grow in value. But as they cannot be downloaded or printed, they are only ever available for view with a device that is internet-enabled (like a TV, cell phone, tablet) – strictly for collectors who don't mind the idea of mounting a digital display that flickers between glitchy GIFs and a video of an elderly man having his oxygen mask adjusted by hot models.

New York: Dan Graham and Three Linked Cubes

In New York, Dan Graham has invented a partition called Three Linked Cubes/Interior Design for Space for Showing Videos engineered for viewing digital art. Three Linked Cubes are a series of rectangular bays with side panels that literally fold interior space by forming alternating between a two-way mirror and transparent glass. They bays divide audiences into six groups and include places for monitors and speakers for up to three separate programmes. In a reflexive sleight-of-hand trick, the screen also reflects the audience, mixing their reactions up with the work. The external wall-mounted screen also folds into a handy little crevice. By creating an interior to cage the outside, Three Linked Cubes is a cosy device for the consumption of digital art in the home, as defined by the will of the viewer rather the whim of a gallery. 

Zurich: iart and Europaallee 

Meanwhile, media architecture collective iart use digital technology to recreate an outdoor atmosphere for the interior of Zurich’s Europaallee shopping mall. Using dynamic downlights, projections, spatial sound, and LED lights patterns mounted above and behind the roof, they sync images of natural landscapes (desert, alps, sea, rainforest and meadow) with complementary soundscapes of water, wind, crickets, rustling leaves, and animal calls. A neverending stream of replaceable content brings the outdoors in, taming the openness of the world, and exciting the process of bourgeois consumption. Happy shopping. 

Cologne: Meiré und Meiré and Elemental Spa

Media is just another material in the interiors of Meiré und Meiré. In the world of this German design agency, the standard apartment relinquishes its identity and turns into an open sphere where rooms become a series of overlapping “fields” for bath, kitchen, bedroom and media.  In the bathroom, sound technology turns the so-called Elemental Spa into an ancient bath. Composer Carlo Peters supplies sound collages with sound effects simulating water and acoustic effects are analogised to RainSky showerhead integrated flush into the ceiling. These effects, combined with the room layout, stimulate behaviour that makes users treat bathing as a ritual.