I am enjoying Brussels. There is an exhibition happening at iMal – Art Center for digital cultures & technology called SWIPE RIGHT! Data, Dating, Desire. The exhibition aims to question the shapes of our relationships through digital interfaces and especially since the pandemic’s enhancement of loneliness, therefore the online realm. I have spent some time searching for something and wondering about exactly what the exhibition aims to tackle.
Amongst others in the press, I was kindly welcomed by the curator of the show: Valentina Peri, who introduced us to the building + exhibition and guided us through each work. Some of the artists were present and presented. Honestly, I was a bit nervous that I wouldn’t be able to relate to the works, as I am aware of having lost some of my reading skills during the pandemic. As usual, I was pleasantly surprised to see different angles from which art questions intimacy through technology and technology through the pandemic.
► JOANA MOLL exhibits THE DATING BROKERS
► TOM GALLE, MOISES SANABRIA, JOHN YUYI exhibit TINDER VR/VR HUG/FACE MESSENGER
► !MEDIENGRUPPE BITNIK exhibit ASHLEY MADISON ANGELS AT WORK IN BRUSSELS
► NOEMI IGLESIAS exhibits OFF LOVE
▼ CROSSLUCID exhibit S(T)IMULATION/ZONE
A website is either a container of something or a representation of what it’s not. A website on a big screen before me is a home to hyperlinks that the artists behind the duo name (Sylwana Zybura and Tomas C. Toth) find relevant to inform about subjects related to digital intimacy. (From my private interaction with the website I’ve come across the following: Museum of Sex, Asparagus, Feminist Tech Fellows, (Almost) Everything You Know About the Invention of the Vibrator Is Wrong, Ninja Turtle Sex Museum). The project was originally created for ∄ – a new safe space in Kyiv, Ukraine.
The website is inviting me, the user, to touch and navigate through its cave-like space and fly around the 3D graphics which seem to build up collage corals of which the final shape I cannot imagine at all. I am very close to the corals and the webspace seems to expand beyond the containing frame of the screen. I am a small user and because of my scale, I’ve been asked to act. All I can do is roam around. While being curious to discover the locations of the golden hyperlinks, I also feel encouraged to embrace the disorientation I’ve been given. I let it guide me without feeling obliged or rushed to find the gold. There are no time/score indicators measuring my activity/passivity, as if indirectly telling me that I m u s t dig.
There are different nodes on the website which can be curated by invited curators, scholars, academics, artists, scientists and who not. Such collaborative occurrence would allow for a connected community to create a selection of information they find worth sharing, locally or globally, and without the archival hierarchy slash chronological order. Everything is fluid, yet interconnected and can disappear if it must. The main content of the website, therefore the selection of hyperlinks, is curated seasonally. I am informed about the success of the first season and that the users find the playfulness in finding the information pleasant for learning.
Besides the sportiveness, the fluid structure of the website also suggests that just because there are 589573498 links to be visited, it doesn’t mean that all of them will come across the user’s search. I dig that. I don’t think that users should be encouraged to catch all pokemons, which is what traditional user-friendliness repeatedly advocates. I also dig what I’m triggered into imagining due to the lack of an overview/map of hyperlinks’ locations: the potential slowdown of the info traffic which further allows the user to be in control of one’s own receiving pace (i.e., there are no related hyperlinks, see also widgets).
The website doesn’t (yet) allow user connection, and rather functions as an indication + exploration of sexual and queer philosophies. Its educational format suggests new ways of online learning. Nice!
Check it out: https://stimulation.zone/
► DANI PLOEGER exhibits FETISH, ASCENDING PERFORMANCE & TECHNO-FETISH PARTY
► EWA OSTROWSKA exhibits I HAVE BEEN SENDING HIM A PICTURE OF A ‘LOADING’ SIGN INSTEAD, AND HE STILL HASN’T REALIZED…/WHO SAID ROMANCE WAS DEAD? 3 AM CLASSICS/I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE WONDERING.
► ADDIE WAGENKNECHT & PABLO GARCIA exhibit WEBCAM VENUS
► ADAM BASANTA exhibits A TRULY MAGICAL MOMENT
► LANCEL/MAAT exhibit EEG KISS
► DRIES DEPOORTER exhibits TINDERIN
► ELISA GIARDINA PAPA exhibit TECHNOLOGIES OF CARE – WORKER 7: BOT? INVISIBLE BOYFRIEND/GIRLFRIEND
There is a reason why I decided to review only one work from the exhibition and that is due to personal relatedness to the work in the context of the pandemic. The time is just about perfect to question the online rather than accumulate the online.
The power of online representation has been (a lot) on my mind lately, especially since the lockdown’s physical limitations. I’ve been thinking about the consequential impact of restrictions on our digital behaviors. I like to think that the beginning of the pandemic marks the user’s rush hour to join the online opinion race on various topics. What seems to have happened in the latter stage of the pandemic’s experience online is a specific linguistic silence and a format of a new expression. As if well-presented opinions decided to expire, the emotional language re-surfaced and brought users back to the activities of old-school social media sharing. What’s on your mind? seems to be taken literally again.
I like to think that the enhancement of the personal, and which is now tested in the digital public, is not the only result of the previously mentioned silence. Another principle that became more present in our online spheres is the aesthetic expression, if not the aesthetic race. The increased prevalence of moving images + digital objects speaks of public drooling over. Ability to interact with them: a technical orgasm. Metaphorically speaking, such a style of expression is yet another form of reclaiming physicality online and it shouldn’t be denied as a collectively groomed representation of digital cultures.
After talking to the artists behind CROSSLUCID, I could totally agree with not only the need for new online structures, but also the need for representative aesthetic extension in the educational domain, if the goal is to educate. There is a reason why skepticism towards institutions lingers. I like to think that, besides the usual exclusivity-factor, it is due to their marching focus on traditional methods of archiving their histories. Such focus demands from visiting users to work online in order to get informed, instead of playing around with an option to not necessarily get informed (and still engage with the institution).
At the moment in our world, projects such as stimulation.zone (and Ben Grosser’s Minus) are currently the most consumed in the white cubes, but I am hopeful that with the rise of similar artistic initiatives, the internet will again become mainly a fun and educational space.