To control the spread of Coronavirus, museums and galleries around the world closed to the public several times this year. The art world’s response to Covid 19 was the rapid construction of a new online infrastructure for audiences to virtually engage with art, with international art fairs such as Art Basel and Frieze at the forefront in launching their online viewing rooms.
Having worked from home since March – and now at the end of 2020 – it almost seems to be the ‘new normal’ to do studio visits with an artist online or to engage in virtual gallery tours or artists’ talks from my kitchen table.
At the same time, the second national lockdown this November has increasingly demonstrated the strains of these online events. One reason for this latent ‘online fatigue’ could be the fact that many of the art world’s virtual offers seem to be merely providing a substitute for the ‘real’, or staged as a temporary solution to fill a void.
The online exhibition Your Floorplan, conceived by Seoul based curator Hyunjoo Byeon for her curatorial online platform The Floorplan, takes the current situation of the pandemic, when we only can experience a work of art online, as a starting point. The exhibition aims to explore how artists and curators can think of new ways of producing and presenting art when the viewing of art is increasingly framed by digital technology, when online exhibitions that we perceive on screens at home suddenly replace the experience of viewing art in the gallery space.
For Your Floorplan South Korean and international artists, architects, designers, writers and musicians from different generations, such as Liam Gillick, Goldin + Senneby or Seung-hye Hong were invited to develop new works specifically to be experienced on a digital device. Instead of staging their artwork in a physical space as most of them are used to, the artists were invited to envisage the medium of the online exhibition and the computer monitor as the main platform – or ‘floorplan’ – for presenting their work.
Liam Gillick’s single channel film Object Related Mapping (2020) shows an endless horizontal ‘tracking shot’ of mostly shuttered offices by night. The imagery of the office buildings is overlaid with text sequences that run vertically over the screen. Whilst referring to the pandemic by showing empty workspaces that seem to have lost their function, the text statements mimic the nonsensical jargon of corporate language.
Object Related Mapping, developed by Gillick for this online exhibition, references the sense of space and structural understanding that is often presented in the artist’s sculptural and architectural work. The background MIDI piano music adds an illusional ambience to the film, a perfection that is seemingly unattainable in ‘real’ life but can only exist in a virtual world.
Renowned South Korean artist Seung-hye Hong produced her first interactive work specifically for this virtual space. Organic Geometry is an ongoing series of geometric forms that the artist has created on a computer since the late 1990s. Her 2020 version consists of 29 interactive computer-generated images that display forms based on pixels and grids, but that can only come into being on the screen through the viewer’s mouse-clicks. The work is connected to a flash animation titled Autoportrait (2020). With the pairing of these two works the artists aims to explore how the ‘aura’ of an artwork can manifest itself in a digital world.
Jin and Park’s single channel video Still Life presents a still-life image of Brancusi-like sculptures glimmering in a dim light. They could only possibly exist in a virtual space as they somehow seem to be “more three-dimensional”, “real” and “perfect” than any sculptural object in the physical world. The still-life image is underlaid with sound that crudely imitates a piano performance, playing with our perception and the boundaries between the ‘real’ and the virtual world.
Daum Kim presents a YouTube live station 24/7 Ambient Radio – Music To Space Out To (2020) as a way to interfere with each viewer across time and space. The audience can listen to music, which is being played on the artist’s computer in real time, while being connected online.
With a vaccine against Covid 19 in sight, we may be able to go back to our ‘old’ way of life in 2021, which means that we again will probably mostly experience art in a gallery or museum environment. Nevertheless, the pandemic has forced us to experience and perceive art in new and different ways, so we may never completely return to the ‘normal’ way of doing things.
Overall, Your Floorplan sheds light on how digital technology and the internet can transform the ways in which art is produced, distributed, curated and presented. By interpreting online space as a conceptual space for conceiving and staging art works, as opposed to a substitute for the offline, and by understanding the viewer as an active participant rather than a passive consumer of online content, Your Floorplan is a timely attempt to find ways to produce a more meaningful and user-friendly online exhibition in a time when we have to engage with art beyond the material and spatial boundaries of the traditional exhibition space.
Exhibition continues until 24 January 2021. www.thefloorplan.net