An exhibition in Sharjah examines art during the Internet era
No tour of Sharjah this art season would be complete without a visit to Art in the Age of Anxiety, a wide-ranging exhibition that brings to light several of the most technologically advanced artists concerned with the growing omnipresence of the Internet. Curated by Sharjah Art Foundation director of collections and senior curator Omar Kholeif, the exhibition contains more than 60 works from sculpture, prints, video, virtual reality, robotics and algorithmic programmes developed by over 30 international artists.
It presents the works of leading contemporary, Internet-focused artists like Simon Denny, Eva and Franco Mattes, Lawrence Abu Hamdan, Cory Arcangel, Wafaa Bilal, Cao Fei, James Bridle, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Joshua Nathanson, Trevor Paglen, Siebren Versteeg, UVA, Guan Xiao and Young-Hae Chang Heavy Industries.
The objects and works on display include several new commissions and staples of recent Internet-illuminated works, such as Trevor Paglen’s Circles (2015), a single-channel video installation exploring the tenuous state of surveillance on contemporary life. The work is presented alongside some of Paglen’s iconic photographs from They Took the Faces from the Accused and the Dead… (2019), a series made of cloud-sourced photographs of historical figures filtered through Facebook’s facial recognition system.
Cao Fei’s RMB City consists of a virtual city designed for the online world of Second Life. The work investigates the increasingly blurred boundaries between real and virtual life. Jenna Sutela’s musical film Nimiia Cétïï (2018) features a speculative fiction in which consciousness, neural networks and a new Martian language are formed.
Lynn Hershman Leeson’s Shadow Stalker (2019) follows its debut at The Shed in New York last year, an epic film that charts the rise of “predictive policing, identity theft and the dangers of data mining.” The work features renowned actress Tessa Thompson and “The Spirit of the Deep Web,” played by January Steward. The work gives added weight to the theme of anxiety in the age of omnipresent digital surveillance capitalism.
Other projects of note include an updated version of Siebren Versteeg’s seminal 2012 work Daily Times (Performer), only here reimagined specifically for the exhibition. The work consists of a massive screen outfitted with headlines from UAE-based English newspaper The National, which are then processed and produced into abstract paintings via a machine-learning algorithm.
Todd Reisz, a former participant of the 13th Sharjah Biennial, provides the exhibition with architecture and design that gives each installation and work a space to breathe. Accompanying the exhibition will be a publication set to launch after the conclusion of the discursive programme and mini-symposium.
Art in the Age of Anxiety runs until June 21, 2020 at the Sharjah Art Foundation.
All images are courtesy of Sharjah Art Foundation.
A VERSION OF THIS ARTICLE APPEARED IN PRINT IN SELECTIONS, ART GLOSSARY #52 PAGES 24-29.