Art In The Age Of The Internet: The Malevolent And The Sublime

Amalia Ulman, "Excellences & Perfections (Instagram update, 27th May 2014), (Matching!!)." From the series Excellences & Perfections. 2015. Chromagenic color print. 49.5” x 49.5” x 1.125”. Collection of Kristen Joy Watts, New York.


REVIEW
ART IN THE AGE OF THE INTERNET, 1989 TO TODAY
ICA, BOSTON
25 HARBOR SHORE DRIVE
BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS
THROUGH MAY 20

by Suzanne Volmer

It was surprising when the ICA, Boston opened its Diller Scofidio + Renfro-designed Seaport location in 2006 to see the architectural feature of a media lab centrally located inside. As a foretelling note, it spoke not only of the ICA’s institutional intention to position itself as an important archive of performance art, but the dizzying configuration reflected in vertigo-like terms the idea that digitization has and would continue to alter human experience.

“Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Today” addresses that trajectory and is a fascinatingly diverse exhibition. Curated by Eva Respini, the ICA’s Barbara Lee Chief Curator, this show explores quirks amid the vastness of virtual space and the A.I. frontier. Organized into five packed, but manageable, thought-provoking thematic sections, it explores the blurred lines of human and virtual reality through the categories of Networks and Circulation, Hybrid Bodies, Virtual Worlds, States of Surveillance and Performing the Self. These subject-grabs explore personal, global and cultural identity, and take on web-based observation, participation and accountability. Explored are the use of gaming culture in political and military constructs, immersive activist sites, and utopian and dystopian storytelling, fantasy and documentary formats.

Technology-based art, or new media, unquestionably owes its genesis to the pioneering work of Fluxus artist Nam June Paik. During his visionary career, which began in the 1960s and continued for decades until the artist’s death in 2006, Paik fearlessly harnessed the power of the TV monitor in works poignant, hilarious and profound. He distilled with extraordinary originality the potential, optimism and beauty of participating in the digital age. It is fitting that his immersive installation, “Internet Dream,” is the first thing audiences encounter when walking into “Art in the Age of the Internet, 1989 to Present.” The show unfolds as a conversation shifting from one artist’s viewpoint to another as perspectives build into a rich constellation of ideas about the information age.

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