Digital Art: The Art of our Times

Who are we, and what are these objects and mediums that surround us? In conceiving the exhibit at Savvy Contemporary, curator Anastasia Stein invokes Plato’s “know thyself” as necessary in order to understand the (meta)physical world we subsist in. To do this, the exhibit parallels the artist with the scientist. Indeed both are creators in their own right; artists delve into and manipulate the mechanics and functions of worldly things and mediums, including ourselves – who better, then, to make sense of human nature?

Having visited the “Am I a Thief?” exhibit at Freies Museum in January, I was excited to see the next of Stein’s curatorial quests. Again I was lured in by the emphasis on digital art. This time, instead of digital textile, the exhibit consists of various video installations, a rap music listening station, and an electrifying, buzzing wire spanning the distance of a room.

Talkin’ about my generation…

 “Digital art is the only art we have of our time, and yet it is largely dismissed since bigger museums reject it and people treat it with suspicion,” explains Stein when describing the overall digitalized tendencies of the exhibit. Ryszard Wasko’s (1947) old school black-and-white family portraits with faces masked by computerized atomic balls of color liven up the entrance and embody the generational shift toward digitalization.

Directly opposite, the youngest of the artists, Clara Jo (1986), displays her work. The first is a video entitled “Rohwolle” (trans. Raw wool) which shows an athletic trio in a gym doing synchronized maneuvers with their bodies over a layer of wool. After much research and encountering many videos online, Jo provides her own take on feltmaking. This spatial production relies on the human body to come in contact with the material, highlighting the organic relationship between humans and material in creative production – a relationship that is often obscured within globalized, capitalistic production processes.

Another very different project in this corner is the sound art of Banjee Boi, the collaborative rap project of Jo and James Gregory Atkinson. Their drag-inspired videos with lots of bling and extravagant manicures is quite entertaining, juxtaposing nicely with the neighboring feltmaking routine.

Installation view
Tiago Romagnani Silveira, Video, 2008. “Each change is an effort of permanence.”, Courtesy of Savvy Contemporary. Photo: Danny Croucher

Do we grow like plants?

The next room continues the theme of organic life with Tiago Romagnani Silveira’s (1983) video installation “Each change is an effort of permanence.” The video documents how a plant will grow upwards, even when placed on its side. Do humans also have this same fight-instinct and determination of survival? A vibrating wire also spans the room with a sign that warns you to be careful and not to touch, reminding one of the boundaries of our bodies and existence.

Finally, down a long hallway – as if having traveled down a large generational gap –  the other end of the exhibit presents the work of Wasko. A small room with somewhat of a tunnel vision loops clips of Wasko’s experimental films from the 1970s. The eerie stillness and overly simplistic clips could very well hold your attention even though the plot-less footage runs over an hour.

The various dimensions of this exhibit, centered around the digital, extol artists as a source for acquiring knowledge in very different worldly arenas. Bringing together two generations of artists, “Know thyself” provides both entertainment and awe. Closing this coming Saturday, 24 March, I’m very much hoping for another Know thyself 2.0.

  • Savvy Contemporary Clara Jo, Tiago Romagnani Silveira –  “Know thyself ” Thurs-Sun: 4pm-8pm (March 24th, 7pm-9pm, Artist Talk and Finissage)