There was a time when several artists turned to the Internet to create artworks and interventions that would deconstruct the medium and its power of persuasion. This happened with particular force at the beginning of the 1990s when browsers made accessing the internet easier and technologies started to be more accessible to a wider public. With institutions showing interest towards this kind of art form, the aesthetic dimensions of the work mediated through institutional aura has (inevitably) diluted the subversive power of the Internet, de-energising its subversive charisma.
There is now an urgent call to recover an awareness of the power of the machine over man. The exhibition «Lost in the Net Dream», curated by Yu Chuan Tseng – responds to this urgent call by addressing, through 12 works by 7 artists, questions linked to the expansion of technology and the consequent reordering of our individual and social life. “Accordingly – as the curator explains in the press release – the key question that this exhibition seeks to address is that whether we can keep ourselves sober in the digital environment by comprehending the meanings of media and reflecting on the environment in which messages and their symbolic meanings are broadcasted, instead of being overwhelmed by the surging flood of information and indulging ourselves in the pseudo-contexts woven with delightfully entertaining messages“.
In Email Trek, Aaajiao compares an automated programme to the USS Enterprise from Star Trek, given the task of finding invalid email addresses to prove the existence of past lives. The repetition of movements and habit are at the centre of the work How We Act Together by McDonald and Lauren McCarthy.
When we access the Internet, we are now used to being guided by browsers (and the companies that manage them), directed towards navigating only the surface of the dark web, where information circulates freely (and dangerously) and of which only a tiny fraction is known, and that sometimes only by hearsay.
We are bombarded daily by the contracts sent to us by software companies, which we accept without question in order to carry on navigating. This is the case of YouTube’s Terms of Service that are at the centre of Iterating My Way into Oblivion, a film by Carlo Zanni, who has depicted the Internet landscape in all its aspects and through a variety of media. The voice reading out the contract, from start to finish, pushes the film’s central character to insanity and is also heard by viewers. This captures viewers’ attention for a moment and focuses it on the blind obedience that distinguishes our relationship with the digital world.
In Resist in the Pocket the Chinese artist He-Lin Luo turns his attention to censorship, the need to encrypt and decrypt messages and images together with questions raised by translating from one language to another and between different formats.
Both Runaway News Report, Collaged News Report: Truth of Imagination? and Collective Context by Yi-Ching Huang continue in this direction, returning to where information takes shape, packaged for the public according to specific political messages.
«Lost in the Net Dream» is an exhibition that makes strong political statements, while in the choice of works it is also motivated by a refined aesthetic taste in the way these ideas are expressed.
All the projects are very recent and, in line with the curator’s intention, trace a moment of transition in Internet culture, when the age of text is giving way to narrative, currently identified as the ‘show business’ age, a term coined by Neil Postman and a source of inspiration for this exhibition.
«Lost in the Net Dream, curated by Yu Chuan Tseng, National Taiwan Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan
Artists: aaajiao (China), Gregory CHATONSKY (France), HUANG Yi-Ching (Taiwan), LUO He-Lin (Taiwan), Kyle MCDONALD & Lauren MCCARTHY (United States), Akihiko TANIGUCHI (Japan), Carlo ZANNI (Italy)
images: (cover 1) «Lost in the Net Dream», Taiwan National Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan, poster of exhibition (2) Akihiko Taniguchi, «The Big Browser 3D», 2016, Internet, interactive installation, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist. (3) Aaajiao, «Email Trek», 2016, video installation, website, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist. (4) Lauren McCarthy & Kyle McDonald, «How We Act Together», 2016, Internet, interactive installation, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist. (5) Carlo Zanni, «Iterating My Way into Oblivion», 2016, video, 9’25”. Courtesy of the artist. (6) Luo He-Lin, «Resist in the Pocket», 2016, document, video installation, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist. (7) Huang Yi-Ching, «Collaged News Report: Truth or Imagination?» , 2017, Internet, interactive installation, document, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist. (8) «Lost in the Net Dream», Taiwan National Museum of Fine Arts, Taiwan, exhibition view