Here’s where to see some of the best artworks and art exhibitions without ever leaving your laptop
Who knows what the next few months hold for the world. In the wake of Boris Johnson’s recent suggestion that we all avoid non-essential contact as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19, galleries and museums are closing their doors for the foreseeable future. In these uncertain times, we need art more than ever – to entertain us, to stimulate us, and to generally make sense of the world.
Just because you can’t physically be standing in front of an artwork doesn’t mean you can’t still experience it. In fact, artists have been making art online for decades, so what better time to tick off some of the most exciting digital art exhibitions that you don’t even need to leave your house for. While this list is by no means exhaustive, it is hopefully a starting point for your explorations and a place to escape to when you need it.
“BAD CORGI”, IAN CHENG, SERPENTINE GALLERY, 2006
Perhaps there’s never been a better time for “Bad Corgi” (downloadable from the App Store) than in the grips of the uncertainty of a global pandemic. Designed by artist Ian Cheng, “Bad Corgi” is an iOS game which debuted in 2016 through the Serpentine as part of its Digital Commissions. Described as “a little mindfulness app about learning to exercise those bad-feeling feelings”, “Bad Corgi”, in fact, invites you to contemplate chaos – to let go of control in a world that will do its best to stop you regaining it.
Described at the time of its release by the Serpentine gallery’s co-directors Julia Peyton-Jones and Hans Ulrich Obrist, they said: “‘Bad Corgi’ is a game like no other: a coming together of digital culture and art that can be read as a metaphor for our attempts as a species to exercise control and create order in a world that defies it at every turn.”
CATHARSIS, JAKOB KUDSK STEENSEN, SERPENTINE GALLERY
Part meditation exercise, part artwork, Jakob Kudsk Steensen’s “Catharsis” (online until 31 March) is a gorgeous trip through the digital simulation of a forest which has been undisturbed for hundreds of years. As a viewer, one continuous shot journeys you through the canopies and occasionally dunking you underwater. Described by the Serpentine as drawing on the artist’s “conception of ‘slow media’ whereby digital technologies can foster attention to the natural world and create new narratives about our ecological futures. ‘Catharsis’ becomes a digital portal, a simulated journey that offers audiences access to past and present natural environments, slowed down and up close.”
Danish-born Kudsk Steensen uses immersive VR technology to create radical and imaginative ecological landscapes. By collating data from a range of scientific resources, the artist converts this material into digital worlds with 3D scanners, photogrammetry, satellite data and computer game software.
IN MYSELF, SINEAD O’DWYER, WAVES AND ARCHIVES, 2019
Conceived around the idea of fashion as art, New York-based gallery Waves and Archives launched at the start of March. Its first exhibition was that of Sinead O’Dwyer, whose wearable silicone sculptures have disrupted the fashion system by giving new perspectives on the body. The exhibition In Myself was only briefly, closing its doors to the public due to the growing COVID-19 virus. However, the gallery is offering online tours of the show, available by email request.
“EXCELLENCES & PERFECTIONS”, AMALIA ULMAN, INSTAGRAM
If you regularly read this section of the website then it’s likely you will have seen us speak about how Amalia Ulman’s Instagram performance “Excellences & Perfections” predicted the way we use social media. Ahead of its time, Ulman’s quest for wellness and the “Instagram lifestyle” foreshadowed our current climate. Beginning with an ominous post of an image which read “Part I” and was captioned “Excellences & Perfections”, Ulman began to unravel a – later revealed to be a constructed – world over the next five months. Through the performance, which most believed was reality, she posted images from hotel rooms and the aftermath of a fictionalised boob job. Now fully archived online, step back into 2014, scroll to the bottom of her Instagram feed – accessible through New Museum website – and relive it all again.
In 2010, “in the wake of the financial crisis,” co-founder Lauren Boyle told Dazed that DIS was launched as an art collective and magazine in “response to seismic cultural and aesthetic shifts taking place across the internet”. Eight years on, in early 2018, DIS launched its streaming platform (then free, now by subscription) which offered what they described as “non-genre conforming edutainment”.
From thought-provoking offerings such as Degrees of Disgust by Will Benedict & Steffen Jørgensen – a dystopian look at our drive to improve ourselves in an age where “satisfaction is always deferred in a system where pleasure is at best a trap and at worst unattainable” – to Casey Jane Ellison’s Mothers and Daughters – which she describes as a “surreal unscripted talk show… (which) sits mothers and their daughters down to help them explore their own, often unrepresented, connections” – this is a streaming wormhole you’ll want to fall into.
“WHISPERING PINES 10” (2018), SHANA MOULTON
Artist Shana Moulton’s alter-ego Cynthia desires to be an environmental activist, despite the fact she is an agoraphobe – which shackles her to her Californian house. However, in “Whispering Pines 10” (2018), Cynthia’s attempts to fulfil this leads to “surreal fantasies” and “anxious hallucinations”, with the New Museum describing it at the time as “a new kind of internet soap opera”.
NEW BLACK PORTRAITURES, NEW MUSEUM & RHIZOME
A collaboration between the New Museum and Rhizome, New Black Portraitures is a “browser-based exhibition” showcasing the work of several artists, from Sondra Perry to Juliana Huxtable, and more. It explores “the changing status of black portraiture in relation to strategies for visibility, concealment, and self-representation online”.
A HARLEM FAMILY 1967, GORDON PARKS, GOOGLE ARTS & CULTURE
One of the greatest photographers of the 20th century – and still a major influence today – Gordon Park’s A Harlem Family 1967 is, as described by The Gordon Parks Foundation, “a searing portrait of poverty in the United States”. The series of images, which document the Fontenelle family, “provide(s) a view of Harlem through the narrative of a specific family at a particular moment in time.”
RHIZOME’S NET ANTHOLOGY
If you want to go deep-deep into the realms of web art, this is the anthology for you. Starting in the 1980s and reaching into the 2010s, expect this to be an absolute trip (and a great way to pass the quarantine time.)
9EYES, JON RAFMAN
At the centre of Jon Rafman’s “9Eyes” is Google Street View, which in 2007 sent a fleet of electric cars around the world to take photos with a nine-lensed camera mounted on its roof. The resulting images formed an amazing view of the world, all accessible from one’s own screen. In 2008, Rafman began to collate the fascinating, banal, and absurd images from Google Street View and give them new context by publishing them in books, exhibitions, and on blogs. The project remains ongoing and can be viewed through its own website.
Cairo Clarke yesterday announced the founding of in.oscillation, an open submission of sound and text works which will be published daily on siteprojects.co. Described by the curator and writer as a project which will “develop over time into an online library of rhythms of resistance, expansion, meditation and solidarity”, Clarke hopes to explore “economies of care, collective strategies and to lightly lift spirits” in these uncertain times.
Clarke adds: “There is no required length, form, or topic but we encourage submissions that alleviate overstimulation & anxiety. Contributions could include voice notes, recipes, poems, words, short stories, questions, breathing exercises, ambient sound, rhythmic sound etc.”
I PORTRAY MYSELF, FRIDA KAHLO, GOOGLE ARTS & CULTURE
There are so many ways to approach Frida Kahlo. Her work is so rich in symbolism and her story so enveloped in mythology that every exhibition creates new ways to appreciate or understand her life and work. I Portray Myself focuses on the ways Khalo reveals aspects of her own self through her artwork, not just in her self-portraits, but also in her portraits of others and her still life works.
“RAINBOW”, OLAFUR ELIASSON, ACUTE ART
Speaking on the ephemeral nature of light, Olafur Eliasson mused, “It’s this amazing material; it is there and not there at the same time.“ Continuing his project of harnessing elemental materials, such as water, light and air, to create sensory, immersive environments, Eliasson created “Rainbow”. Made in collaboration with Acute Art, “Rainbow” (which you can access via the Acute Art app) invites you to enter a “glittering curtain of softly falling water”, through which you’re able to occasionally glimpse a rainbow. Just what we need in these strange times.
“FAIR WARNING”, JONAS LUND, WHITECHAPEL GALLERY
Jonas Lund’s “Fair Warning” is an incredibly compelling interactive digital artwork that explores ideas and feelings around analytics, data capturing, and personality tests, while also reflecting on the polarised nature of the choices we’re so often presented with every day. Commissioned by Whitechapel Gallery and Phillips, “Fair Warning” presents a series of questions to answer, statements to complete, and binary notions to choose from. Whether they seem significant, political and emotional or totally arbitrary, every question is provocative and the cumulative effect is powerful.
X Museum, a new art museum in Bejing, is attempting to define the “zeitgeist of the millennial” by creating a platform for the next generation of artists worldwide. Co-founder, 26-year-old, Michael Xufu Huang told Artnet, “The X Museum we want to build is a unique art museum in China that is devoted to creating opportunities for young talents. The inaugural exhibition will set an academic tone for the museum.” How Do We Begin? the museum’s opening show, featured 33 emerging artists all under the age of 40.
Alongside the physical gallery space, X Museum has also launched its first virtual museum programme with an exhibition designed by Pete Jiadong Qiang.
BLACK AND BOO, COREY HAYMAN, @ILYD.NU
@ilyd.nu offers an online exhibition space for sound, each of which lasts one month. Its current artist is Corey Hayman, whose Black and boo “formulates connections between multifarious material to explore the matrix concerning afro-pessimism, the ‘hauntology of blackness’, progress and capitalism; culminating in an examination of the problematics which arise at the cross between representation and commodity structures.”
Other artists whose work has exhibited by @ilyd are Gray Wielebinski and Rosa-Johan Uddoh. While previous exhibitions aren’t available to listen to online, snippets are archived on @ilyd.nu’s Instagram.