We weigh in on the all-internet art show.
The Wrong, dubbing itself ‘The New Digital Art Biennial’ has officially gone online as of November 1st, and will be open untill the final day of 2013. Organized by David Quiles Guillo, the founder and director of the Sao Paolo-based independent creative organization ROJO, The Wrong Biennial features a massive amount of digital work, culled together by 30 curators and housed in online pavilions that take the form of standalone websites linked to from The Wrong’s main page. Each of these 30 curators have organized and designed one of the digital pavilions, selecting a number of artists from around the globe, totalling over 300 participating in all. If that sounds like a lot, you’d be right; the sheer amount of content housed in these pavilions is nothing less than overwhelming.
The Plastic Yet Still In-Between pavilion, curated by Andrew Benson, takes form as a navigable, 3-dimensional space where artists' works can be "walked" into.
Like any expansive, all encompassing, elaborate art event, the onset of visual and mental fatigue can quickly exhaust someone attempting to navigate and absorb the work. To fully experience The Wrong in a single sitting would be a grueling task. Not only is there enough primary content to make your eyes glaze over, but one featured project, the Homeostasis Lab curated by Julia Borges Araña & Guilherme Brandão, acts as an ongoing open call for work, and will continue to grow over the course of the biennial as new submissions are added. In addition, several satellite locations will be hosting events in traditional brick & mortar spaces as part of The Wrong’s programming.
The planned chaos of Homeostasis Lab.
An atypical approach to organizing events is nothing new for Guillo; as the director of ROJO he has experimented with non-traditional arts festivals in the past. However, this marks his first foray into the realm of a massive, internet-based exhibition of purely digital work. While plenty of online exhibitions have occurred in the past, The Wrong comes at a crucial time in regards to this kind of work and the sensibilities of the artists involved. October marked the Phillips auction house’s Paddles ON!, the first auction focusing exclusively on the sale of digital art. Following this, The Wrong is poised to give structure to this kind of work in a way that could further its acceptance in the mainstream art world. Their official mission statement is to “create, promote and push positive forward-thinking contemporary digital art to a wider audience worldwide through a biennial online event”. How successful it is at achieving these goals remains to be seen.
The navigation page for the Soci4lites pavilion curated by Emilie Gervais, mimicking visual and navigational tropes of social media sites.
Digital art distributed online has always been at odds with the art market. Dealing in ubiquity, ease of reproduction and decentralization has made art that functions at least in part on digital networks almost entirely incompatible with a system that thrives on singular objects, limited editions and the notion of ‘the aura’. Still, the art has happened in spite of this and over the past decade or so has accelerated exponentially, developing its own unique plethora of micro-genres, aesthetic tropes, and conceptual devices, all of which are now organized within the hallowed screens of The Wrong Digital Biennial. In the end, it is the content that will determine the outcome of The Wrong.
Sucuk und Bratwurst's Windows/Mac Bandanas, a short, simple looped piece from the Young Internet Based Artists pavilion curated by Anthony Antonellis.
On display is a pretty typical offering of what anyone familiar with this kind of work might come to expect by now; glitch-based works and flickering GIF collages make their abrasive presence known along side more tranquil yet equally over-perpetuated minimal-digi-zen pieces. Interactive work has always found a place online and there are a handful of examples here as well, like the simple but effective FFFFFartsy page (one of The Wrong’s ‘Special Features’ pages) where the user can upload any image or paste a url and have them framed and put on the wall of a virtual gallery.
FFFFFartsy's interactive image and website framing pavilion, one of the special feature sites within The Wrong.
Presentation often overrides content within certain realms of internet-based works, where the nuts and bolts of on-screen architecture are rendered fully visible. While works like this tend to be more exessive, there is an honesty-to-form in work like this which simply cannot be replicated in any other context outside of the browser. Alternatively, the (relatively) newer trend of effectively mimicking the white-cube gallery space online and presenting works that could otherwise be mistaken for the genuine thing makes its restrained bad-boy presence known here as well.
Anthony Antonellis’ “Young Internet-Based Artist” pavillion does this to proper effect. Here, high-speed mashup tendencies are put to the side for a series of more considered, less overt pieces. Chris Collins’ video Natasha is a surprisingly emotive narrative told through voice over and expertly timed stock imagery, while Sucuk und Bratwurst’s Windows/Mac Bandanas and Manuel Fernandez’s hardwaterpieces could have been pulled straight from the pages of a contemporary art rag or found on the infinite scroll of Contemporary Art Daily.
Other highlights along this line can be found on the Western Digital pavillion page created by Rick Silva and the Plan 9 Channel 12 page, curated by Yoshi Sodeoka. Both pavilions feature a mix of artists whose work strives for transcendence rather than simply revelling in net nostalgia or unthoughtful appropriation. But, as with their analog counterpart, any biennial featuring as much work as The Wrong will inevitably suffer from some amount of bloating. In the effort to represent such a diverse, stratified scene, it is fruitless to only bare witness to the best-of-the-best, as it is the less effective work that helps gives the good stuff context. Being able to see it all at once allows for the uninitiated to play catch up and find out what net art has been up to for the past 10 years.
Fills by Peter Burr (Plan 9 Channel 12 Pavilion curated by Yoshi Sodeoka).
Sabrina Ratte and Roger Tellier Craig's Climat 1 from the Plan 9 Channel 12 pavilion curated by Yoshi Sodeoka one of the handful of pieces on The Wrong that embraces a more analog, technological aesthetic.
Digital, network-enabled art is at a crossroads. Many who have done some of the most important work in this realm are developing their practice to be more diverse and dynamic, while others are hyper-specializing and moving further inward. Ideally, The Wrong would bring up these and other issues relevant to where the work is going and how it functions, how technology and the internet have changed post-privacy, and the effect of social networks on art making. This would allow for an element of reflection and critique within its programming. This is what facilitates development. This is what allows for artists to take stock, challenge themselves and rethink their approach so as to move on from tired methods and innovate. Unbiased celebration can create stagnation. The Wrong does a hell of a job organizing and celebrating such an expansive range of work. What it’s effect will be is yet to be determined, but in the meantime, head on over to thewrong.org today and start exploring.